Shock, tears and screams; that was how some responded in a courtroom today when a jury found Peter Khill not guilty of murdering Jon Styres, a Six Nations man who was trying to steal Khill’s truck from his Binbrook driveway.
Khill admitted he shot Styres but said it was in self defense because he thought Styres had a gun.
The verdict was met by sobs as the jury found Peter Khill not guilty of second degree murder.
They came to that decision this morning after beginning deliberations yesterday afternoon.
During this 2 week trial, which heard from a number of witnesses including Khill himself, tensions were high. With family and supporters for both sides filling the courtroom. The hallway today outside lined with police officers brought in for backup.
28 year old Peter Khill walked out of Hamilton’s John Sopinka Courthouse a free man today.
He was surrounded by family and supporters as he got into his car with his wife.
Jeff Manishen, Khill’s lawyer, said “I just want to thank the jury for the way that they dealt with the evidence and in addition thank family and friends for their support.”
When the verdict was read Khill was calm. His wife Melinda Benko, who is 6 months pregnant, broke down in tears and people started hugging.
On the other side of the courtroom the mother of Styres children began sobbing and rushed out shouting. While his friends and family consoled each other.
Khill was escorted out of the court by police because of the tense situation.
He admitted he killed Styres with two shot gun blasts on the morning of February 4th 2016, but pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder saying he fired in self-defence when he thought Styres was pointing a gun at him.
Telling police and a 911 operator:
“It was pitch black, and it looked like he was literally about to shoot me, so I shot him.”
Testifying that when he went outside dressed in only boxers and a t-shirt he had yelled at Styres to put his hands up and fired as Styres began to turn towards him. Hitting him once in the chest and once in the back of his right shoulder.
His lawyer telling the jury Khill was simply following his training as a military reservist.
“It was something that he indicated within minutes after the incident he said ‘I am a soldier that’s how I was trained.’ “
Styres, the 29 year old father of two from Six Nations, did not have a gun.
The Crown said the killing should never have happened, that Khill should have called 911 and waited for police rather than run out of the house with a loaded shotgun.
Only after he fired the two shots did Benko call 911.
Styres mother declined to comment as she left the courthouse today with her head down. So did the homicide detectives and prosecutors on the case.
Today the judge thanked both sides for their participation in what he called a tough and emotional trial.
Khill’s lawyer told the jury that race played no part in this case, that Khill couldn’t have known Styres was indigenous because of how dark it was and how fast it all happened. Jurors had been asked if they could be impartial when they were selected.
However it is a case that First Nations leaders have been watching closely.
The Six Nations elected council says there was a number of questionable moments during the trial.
Talking about the judge’s decision not to admit Khill’s video interview with police into evidence.
That was a statement he gave to police shortly after being arrested where he told them the same version of events as he told the jury.
In court he was calm and composed, during the police interview he was sobbing throughout.
The jury never saw that video. The judge saying he wasn’t sure that interview was given voluntarily.
The Six Nations elected council also citing the non-expert testimony on military training from Khill’s former trainer in the reserves who explained training for soldiers is based on repetition. Saying you do it so much you don’t have to think about what you are doing and how that training can come back even years later.