New & Notable: Chasing self-defence

Douglas Jackson was a drug dealer. Like most drug dealers he had a gun. On December 13, 2006 he used that gun. He shot Derrick Campbell four times; one of those shots was in the back. He claimed that he was acting in self-defence. He was convicted of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life with no eligibility for parole for 15 years. He appealed, inter alia, the sentence. That appeal was dismissed: 2013 ONCA 632.


Campbell and his friends were doing drugs one night. During the night they ran out of drugs. They formed a plan to lure Campbell, a drug dealer (dealing in crack), to the apartment and rob him. When Campbell attended they brought him to the washroom where one of the men tried to convince him to front some drugs. During this conversation Jackson pointed a gun at Campbell and told him to give them the drugs and money he had. One of the other men intervened and the robbery was called off.

Jackson’s version of events about what happened next suggested that Campbell then reach toward his belt, while calling Jackson names, and revealed what Jackson believed to be the handle of a gun. Jackson pulled out his gun and shot Campbell a number of times. Campbell turned and began to run. Jackson shot him in the back as he ran from the apartment; Jackson pursued Campbell into the hall continuing to brandish the gun. Campbell ran down four floors and then collapsed and died.

Four bullets were recovered from his chest. No gun was found on Campbell, however.

At trial Jackson argued he acted in self-defence. The jury rejected that claim and convicted him of second degree murder. He was sentenced to life with a parole ineligibility of 15 years. He appealed both conviction and sentence.

With respect to the conviction appeal, Jackson argued, inter alia, that the trial judge erred in refusing to admit evidence that the victim had convictions for firearm offences. Inter alia, he argued that the trial judge erred by concluding the convictions had no probative value. Jackson had advanced two arguments regarding the probative value:

First, he advanced the Scopellitti argument, to the effect that the convictions showed that the deceased had a propensity for violence.  Second, he advanced the Watson argument, to the effect that the convictions showed that the deceased had a propensity to possess firearms [para 36].

The majority rejected this ground of the appeal. Regarding the Scopelletti argument they agreed with the trial judge that possession and sale of firearms were not “violent” offences within the meaning of Scopelletti. Moreover, the offences were dated.

Regarding the Watson argument, the majority again accepted the trial judge’s conclusion and held:

As the Crown submitted, the facts in this case are a far cry from those in Watson, where the evidence showed that the deceased was habitually in possession of a firearm.  In this case, the defence was attempting to introduce disposition evidence, not evidence of the deceased’s habits.  Unlike in Watson, there was no evidence that the deceased always carried a gun.  In addition, as has been mentioned, the proposed evidence was not current and did not involve the deceased’s use of guns.  Moreover, it was not going to be tendered by a witness who knew the deceased and his habits.  

Furthermore, at the time the application was heard, it was clear that ample evidence would be before the jury showing that the deceased was actively involved in the drug trade, as a dealer.  It is notorious that drug dealers often carry hand guns.  In this context, the convictions would have added little, if anything [pars 41-42]. 

The conviction appeal was dismissed.

With respect to the sentence appeal Jackson argued that the judge erred by failing to acknowledge that his consumption of crack and alcohol reduced his culpability along with the “aggressiveness” of Campbell.

The majority rejected this ground of appeal. First, Jackson had been released just five weeks before and had, inter alia, a firearms prohibition [para 97].  Second, it was conceded at trial that shooting Campbell in the back was aggravating. Third, Jackson’s criminal record is serious and was escalating. Fourth, Jackson was involved in the aborted attempt to rob Campbell. Fifth, 11 jurors suggested that 15 years was appropriate.

Sentence appeal dismissed.