“How interesting it always is to cover a criminal trial and to actually be there and thus get the feel of the thing, only to be sternly corrected after the verdict is in by those who never set foot in the courtroom.
“So it is now, in the aftermath of the not guilty verdict in the Peter Khill trial in Hamilton, Ont.”
Christie Blatchford, Race was not a factor in the Peter Khill verdict
On February 26, 2020, the Court of Appeal for Ontario reversed Peter Khill’s acquittal in the death of Jonathan Styres.
Peter Khill must now face the ordeal of another lengthy courtroom trial. This is both sad and distressing.
It’s probably also unavoidable in a time where those who don’t know any of the facts stridently insist all court decisions must be rendered based on the race of the victim, not the victim’s actions that directly resulted in their untimely death.
On February 4, 2016, around 3:00am, Millie Benko, Peter Khill’s girlfriend, woke him to say she heard someone banging outside. He heard two loud bangs and looked out the window. The lights of his truck were on, meaning someone was then or had recently been inside his vehicle.
Peter Khill spent time as an army reservist, and his training taught him how to assess threat situations and deal with them proactively, so that’s exactly what he did.
The Ontario Court of Appeals Ruling describes what happened next.
 According to Mr. Khill, his military training took over when he perceived a potential threat to himself and Ms. Benko. He decided to investigate the noises and, if necessary, confront any intruder or intruders. Mr. Khill loaded the shotgun he kept in the bedroom and, armed with the shotgun, went to investigate the noises.
When he reached the back of his truck, the passenger side door was already open. Inside, Khill could see someone leaned over the seat doing something but Khill could not discern what.
 Evidence later gathered at the scene indicated that the lock on the front door of the truck had been punched out. It would appear that Jonathan Styres was trying to steal the truck or the contents in the front cab of the truck.
 Mr. Khill said in a loud voice, “Hey, hands up.” Mr. Styres, who apparently had not seen Mr. Khill, began to rise and turn toward Mr. Khill. As he turned, Mr. Khill fired a shot. He immediately racked the shotgun and fired a second shot. Both shots hit Mr. Styres in the chest. He died almost immediately.
 According to Mr. Khill, immediately after he yelled at Mr. Styres to put his hands up, Mr. Styres began to turn toward him. Mr. Styres’ hand and arm movements indicated that he had a gun and was turning to shoot Mr. Khill. Mr. Khill claimed that he believed that he had no choice but to shoot Mr. Styres. Mr. Styres did not have a gun.
Jonathan Styres was of Indigenous heritage, though his race had no bearing on what happened that fateful night, or in the trial ending with Peter Khill’s acquittal.
This didn’t stop the usual suspects from claiming both the death of a young first nations man and the acquittal of his killer meant something was seriously wrong with the justice system.
Christie Blatchford explains.
Yet the same day as the Khill verdict came down, Six Nations Council and its chief, Ava Hill, were criticizing it — “How can Indigenous people have faith in the relationship with Canada when the justice system fails to hold anyone accountable for the taking of a life?” Hill asked — and calling for an appeal.
“The trial proceeded with a number of questionable moments including the exclusion by the judge of a long interview that Peter Khill gave to the police shortly after he was arrested and the use of “lay opinion evidence” to testify to the effect of military training of Khill,” the statement read.
These weren’t “questionable moments,” but rather perfectly ordinary parts of any criminal trial.
The long interview with police was a cautioned video statement that the judge ruled inadmissible (because he said it wasn’t entirely voluntary) and which was entirely exculpatory in any case.
If the jurors had seen the interview, if anything, it might have rendered them more sympathetic to Khill because he was so clearly torn up by what he’d done and because he appeared to be such a decent, and genuine, young man.
Those criticizing the verdict weren’t in the courtroom. They didn’t hear the evidence presented to the court, nor did they know (or care) about criminal record.
Trial Judge Excludes Jonathan Styres’ Criminal History
From R. v. Khill, 2018 ONSC 4149, Ruling On Character Evidence Of The Deceased, which excluded all evidence of Jonathan Styres’ past criminal history:
11] There are five items of evidence said to be admitted for purposes of allegedly demonstrating that it is more likely that the victim reacted towards the accused with a threatening gesture, as the accused indicated he had when speaking to the 911 operator, and as it is anticipated he will repeat at trial.
 The first item consists of certified copies of informations, together with a court transcript, showing that on March 22, 2013 the victim, Jonathan Styres pleaded guilty to offenses of dangerous driving, and fail to stop when signaled to do so by police, both of which occurred on February 9, 2011. On that date police officers noticed Mr. Styres driving what was believed to be a stolen vehicle. They directed him to stop the vehicle but he refused. Cruiser lighting was activated but again he failed to stop and a high speed pursuit occurred during which Mr. Styres drove dangerously. He eventually ditched the vehicle in a field and ran away into a bush lot.
 Mr. Styres was facing outstanding charges as of the date of his death. All these charges relate to alleged thefts of motor vehicles, possession of stolen motor vehicles, possession of stolen automotive equipment, and two charges of breach of probation by failing to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. The offense date for all allegations was June 2, 2015. On February 17, 2016 all charges were withdrawn as against Mr. Styres on account of his having passed away.
 The third item relates to a charge of assaulting a peace officer. The allegation is that a corrections officer at the Toronto South Detention Centre suspected Mr. Styres to be in possession of contraband drugs, took steps to begin to search him, and observed Mr. Styres putting something in his socks. When Mr. Styres attempted to retrieve the vials they fell on the floor and the officer, in an effort to preserve the evidence, placed his right boot over the vials. The allegation is that Mr. Styres then attempted to retrieve the vials by grabbing the officer’s boot and “throwing his leg backwards to set him off balance”. This incident led to a charge of assaulting a peace officer in the execution of his duty contrary to section 270 (1) (a), as evidenced by a certified copy of the information. For reasons which are not explained, the charge was withdrawn by the Crown on September 28, 2015, which appears to have been a set date appearance.
 The fourth item is a photograph agreed to be that of Mr. Styres. It is undated. The photographer is not known. It shows him standing inside a room with his right hand holding the butt of some kind of rifle and his left hand holding the stock. It may be a shotgun. It may be sawed off. The gun is not being pointed at anyone. There is no one else in the picture. I have advised the picture surfaced as part of an online petition. There is no authentication of the picture or the circumstances under which it was taken.
 The fifth and last item is a photograph of a knife taken from the deceased. It is a folding knife. In the picture the blade is opened up. Embedded in the handle there appears to be what has been described by a police officer as a piece of metal made to look like a bullet.
In other words, Jonathan Styres was a young man with a lengthy history of crime and a propensity for violence.
Jonathan Styres refused to turn away from his life of crime. He died that night, not because he was Indigenous, but because he was a career criminal caught in the act of stealing another vehicle.
Styres is responsible for his actions that night. He chose to break into Peter Khill’s truck in his attempt to steal it.
That Peter Khill must face the ordeal of another lengthy trial is both sad and distressing.
It’s also unavoidable when those who know nothing of the facts insist all court decisions must be rendered based on the race of the victim, not their actions.
Until we, as a nation, embrace the principle of holding a person accountable for their actions, even when those actions result in that person’s death, we will never find our way through this insanity.
I fear that our society is going down the toilet. Reality and facts don’t seem to have standing anymore. I always enjoy reading your emails because they are logical and thought out. Something the left doesn’t believe in. The country and its leader appear to be out of touch with their own sanity…..and they are definitely out of touch with reality.
Christopher di Armani says
Thank you for your kind words and support, Terry.
Robert Sciuk says
The circumstances are eerily similar to the Gerald Stanley trial, where both the PM, and AG (Judy Wilson Raybould) weighed in and declared an injustice because of the race of the decedent. Facts in the case had no bearing on this reaction, and in spite of Mr. Stanley defending his home, wife and son against a violent, armed home invasion, he was charged. This lead directly to changes in the jury selection process, and in my opinion was an incorrect intervention on behalf of both the PM and the AG.
In the Crown’s appeal in this case, I suspect that political correctness has more to do with the appeal than the actual circumstances … and in a case of self defense, charges might have been never laid in a proper democratic system.
Slippery slope when it comes to self defence in Canada. My father an old school commando always said drag the body in the house and place a weapon by their side. Well I took that with a grain of salt of course. The military training defence is a crutch for poor judgment in my opinion. Having spent some time within mother DND I find that to be somewhat of a discredit to the accused in this case. Situational awareness is vital but of course I was not there and can only comment from what is in print. Unfortunately “race” is an other crutch to lean on. Remember humans are not a race but a species. What this person did breaking into someone else property or even being there in the first place without invitation is wrong regardless of genetic heritage. There is a discrepancy in this case and the crown has filled on it or we would not be having this conversation. One, the crown is admitted that excessive force was used on an unarmed person or “two” the “race card is being played to foster public support and further a crown lawyers career. I would like to believe that the first is actually the case. That being said perhaps the action may cause other wood-be criminals to think twice. Our Government needs to get off its righteous rear end and address the very real and growing problems in this country, the country I love and even though I am no longer serving, feel a compassion to uphold the freedoms we all have come to embrace. Once again Christopher thanks for your hard work.
Doug Miller says
I would consider Khil guilty of manslaughter because at the time that he shot, no weapon was visible. I suspect the first shot may have bordered on unintentional and a reflex to the deceased making a rapid movement
How ironic that a crime of this nature would occur just before a number of large protests started shutting down good paying jobs in the oil industry and the whole transportation industry in Canada and beyond that may have saved this young mans life by way of a simple job. They say greed is the root of all thats evil and money is the spawning factor but this is not greed. With more good paying jobs heading south, we can only blame a government that has a set of priorities that may protect indigenous people but doesn’t help them out of poverty. On a CTV news cast Mar. 4/20 it was reported that the preparation for these protests were know by politicians last year and if the correct measures were made then to defuse the protests we could save future indigenous lives by simply offering them a job in our dying resource sector that the natives are responsible for……….. This is such a counterproductive move by this Liberal government that it’s on the cusp of being a raciest move.
Mark Trenholme says
Quite frankly, if someone was stealing from my car I would tell them to leave while I stood safely inside the house calling the police . A couple of points. First, unless the accused knew the alleged victim the accused would not know the person’s character. A criminal conviction or outstanding criminal charges are then irrelevant. Worse, introducing propensity evidence during a jury trial is probably very prejudicial. Mr. Khill seems not to have known the person stealing from his car so the person’s prior bad behaviour has no bearing on the events. Simply put, Mr. Khill could not have considered Mr. Styres’ “propensity for violence” because he did not have the information before pulling the trigger twice. Second, this is an appeal based on the judge’s instruction to the jury. The Court of Appeal felt the instructions missed the mark. As result, a new trial is ordered. The decision has nothing to do with the facts of the case or the ethnicity of the alleged victim. The decision is the Court of Appeal correcting what they see as an error by the trial judge. Unfortunate a result for Mr. Khill, but unavoidable in the circumstances. Of course, if Mr. Khill had taken a less confrontational approach to a minor theft in all likelihood Mr. Styres would still be alive. This will be the point the jury will be tasked with assessing as part of the evidence at the next trial. Mr. Khill is not likely to fair well on that issue. As responsible gun owners permitted by society to have deadly force available to us we need to make decisions that make the use of deadly force the very last option and avoid the use of deadly force whenever possible.
POS Styres would still be alive if he was not a thieving POS. The fault is his and all actions that night are a result of his criminal activity. Any other finding/ruling by the court is illegitimate.
Harry Koivisto says
My mother did tell me that this country is going to hell in a hand basket, wherever that is. We do not have a strong judicial system as I do not know what is being taught these days about law & order. The country is a wild and wooly place these days run by a pseudo dictatorships whether it being gov’t ministers or police.
First of all firearm was in bedroom! Was it in a safe. Was it trigger locked? What did he expect the guy to do when he said put up hands? Sorry but I agree with retrial as a gun owner he did a few things of basic training wrong. No need to use both barrels. A warning shot first he still had plenty of time to defend himself if the guy had a gun with a second shot and after all it was a shotgun
Who cares if it was in the bedroom, or in a safe, or trigger locked? Those things are meant to prevent (reduce) unauthorized access. This is not a case of unauthorized access.
Think there are at least 2 points.. 1 the firearms act requires safe storage for fire arms and ammo. 2 he had a shotgun so the first shot would act as a warning allowing him to use second shot if required.
lynn cournoyer says
I am not sure what part of Ontario Mr. Khill lives, but if he lived in a remote area then the law allows him to have a firearm close buy to deal with predators. So the safe storage law would not apply.
Think the safe storgevapplies everywhere in Canada.
Andrey Piskunov says
“Slaves aren’t allowed to protect themselves.” (c) But in this case he definitely over reacted since there was no direct life threat and should be penalized with something like a couple of years of probation.