Accused’s confession inadmissible, defence argues in murder case

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

The Vancouver Sun

A lawyer for a man accused of fatally shooting and then dismembering a West Vancouver businessman is arguing that statements his client made to police were not given voluntarily.

Ian Donaldson says a number of factors contributed to the confession of Li Zhao being involuntary, including that he was cold and hungry in the Vancouver city jail before the police interview.

“I’m not saying that freezing or starving him was deliberate,” Donaldson told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes. “I don’t have that burden. But I say it’s a circumstance which cannot be ignored in the delicate contextual inquiry upon which you are obliged to embark.”

Zhao, 56, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and interfering with a human body in the May 2015 death of West Vancouver millionaire Gang Yuan, 42.

In a pre-trial motion that began last month, Donaldson is seeking to have two statements to police that Zhao made in the days following his arrest ruled inadmissible.

During the police interviews, Zhao told Richmond RCMP Const. Wilson Yung that he had shot the victim outside Yuan’s British Properties home, dragged the body inside and then used a power saw to cut up the body.

On Friday, Donaldson told the judge that in addition to the conditions experienced by Zhao in the jail, the accused was not given a proper warning that he had the right to remain silent and that anything he said could be used as evidence against him in court.

He said the circumstances amounted to an inducement for his client to speak to police.

But Crown counsel Kristin Bryson earlier argued that what went on in the police interview room is what is most important and noted that there were no threats or promises made by police to the accused.

“While there’s no doubt that the conditions in the Vancouver jail that the accused in our case experienced for a number of hours on the afternoon of May 3 (2015) aren’t ideal, in the Crown’s submission they cannot be characterized as inhumane,” said Bryson.

“Certainly there’s no evidence to suggest that the conditions were in any way connected to the fact that the accused spoke to Const. Yung. Again, it’s clear that the accused wanted to speak in this case.”

Bryson told the judge that the accused had received legal advice that he shouldn’t speak to police and was given warnings about the fact that evidence could be used against him in court.

She said Zhao was clearly an intelligent man and was animated and engaged in the police interview.

The key factor on the issue of voluntariness was whether the accused wanted to speak to police and it was “abundantly clear” that he did in fact wish to do so, said the prosecutor.

The case is expected to continue Monday with further arguments on the issue, including whether the accused’s charter rights were violated in connection with his statements to police.

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