Killer hubby loses appeal for new trial
Alberta's top court rejects Michael White's appeal of conviction for murdering his pregnant wife
By TONY BLAIS, COURT BUREAU
The Edmonton Sun
Convicted killer Michael White has lost his bid for a new trial after Alberta's highest court rejected the appeal of his conviction for murdering his pregnant wife.
In a unanimous decision released yesterday, the Court of Appeal of Alberta ruled the trial judge in the case did not make any reversible errors in her charge to the jury.
The three-judge panel found the jurors were properly instructed on how they could use White's post-offence conduct and his prior record to assess his credibility.
The panel also spurned the defence argument that the judge had failed to sufficiently deal with whether White, 31, should be convicted of murder or manslaughter.
"The appellant made a tactical decision at trial to testify and deny any involvement in the death of Liana White. By so doing, he gave up the opportunity to say that it was only manslaughter," wrote Justice Patricia Rowbotham.
"The appellant has changed his tactic on appeal and says that it was manslaughter."
Defence lawyer Hersh Wolch had argued the trial judge failed to give jurors a specific direction as to how they could use evidence of White's post-offence conduct.
"The jury should have been told it doesn't go to the level of guilt," said Wolch, referring to evidence of White, while under police surveillance, bringing home a garbage bag containing bloody clothes and paper towels linked to the killing from a field and putting it out for collection.
The disgraced former soldier was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years on Dec. 15, 2006, after being convicted of second-degree murder and interfering with human remains for killing his pregnant wife Liana, 29, and dumping her naked body in a ditch.
The July 12, 2005, slaying garnered national attention as White went on TV begging for help to find his missing wife, a clerk in the neonatal unit of the Royal Alexandra Hospital, only to be charged after her body was found.
White testified he never killed his wife and said the bloody evidence came from his wife having a nosebleed.
It was a circumstantial case with no witnesses and the Crown argued White killed Liana in their Castle Downs home, dragged her body into the garage, put it into her SUV and then dumped her remains in a ditch.
He then tossed bloody evidence from the killing into a garbage bag which he left in a grassy field and returned later to pick up, unwittingly under police surveillance.
As well, White left Liana's SUV in a parking lot, staged it to look like a robbery and was then captured on a security video from a pub, running in the opposite direction.
According to court documents released after the verdict, because they were not before the jury, the Whites' then three-year-old daughter Ashley likely witnessed her father attacking her mother and cleaning up the bloody mess, and possibly even saw him disposing of the body.