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article imageBackyard burial isn't proof man wanted to kill victim, court says

By Megan Hamilton     Jul 20, 2015 in Crime
Oshawa - Canada's Supreme Court has ruled that even though a killer hid the body, cleaned up the crime scene, and lied to police, the actions don't necessarily prove there was actual intent to commit murder.
The Supreme Court upheld the appeal court ruling on Friday that overturned the second-degree murder conviction in 2011 of Jason Rodgerson in the death of Amber Young, 21, in Oshawa, Ontario, The National Post reports.
Rodgerson, who allegedly killed Young in 2008, will be heading for a new trial.
In writing the Supreme Court judgment, Justice Michael Moldaver agreed with an appeals court that the trial judge didn't properly inform the jury regarding to weigh the evidence, The Globe and Mail reports.
He wrote that the trial judge shouldn't have told the jury that Rodgerson's attempt to flee police, coupled with his lies after the young woman's death were evidence of an intent to commit murder. It was a "legal error [that] amounted to misdirection, not non-direction," he noted.
The 200-page charge to the jury was also confusing, the court found, and didn't explain how the jurors should view Rodgerson's burying the young mother in the shallow grave and his attempts to clean up the crime scene with bleach.
"I have concluded that the trial judge erred by failing to sufficiently aid the jury in understanding how to use the evidence of post-offense concealment and clean-up on the issue of intent," Moldaver wrote.
He also upbraided the Crown for charging Rodgerson with first-degree murder. Evidence for the charge was "paper thin," the justice wrote.
Rodgerson and Young, who had a young son, met in an Oshawa bar on the day she died, evidence shows. They drank, took prescription drugs and ecstasy, and went to Rodgerson's home where they had consensual sex twice. He disputed paying her $5 for the ecstasy and says she attacked him with a knife, and that's when he hit her twice and claimed self-defense.
"This struggle culminated in him pressing down on her face with his forearm until she appeared to pass out," the Supreme Court Judgment's statement of facts reported, according to the Toronto Star.
Waking the next day, he found her dead in his bed, and panicked because he was growing marijuana in the basement.
He stripped the young woman, buried her in a grave in the home's backyard and attempted to clean up the crime scene. Police, tipped off by his grow-op partner, arrived a few days later.
Rodgerson was originally sentenced to serve at least 14 years in prison for Young's murder, durhamregion.com reports.
During the original trial, defense lawyer Peter Bawden said that Rodgerson came from a dysfunctional family. His mother was addicted to drugs and abandoned him when he was 17. She left the teenager with an abusive stepfather.
Just weeks before the murder, Rodgerson had come to Ontario looking for work, his attorney said.
"I don't ask any sympathy for Jason Rodgerson," Bawden said. "His conduct on that evening and in the subsequent days can only be described as cowardly."
In the days before the trial, Rodgerson pleaded guilty to allegedly committing an indignity to a dead body, and drug charges stemming from the grow-op. He received a sentence of three-and-a-half years for the crimes, and was set to do the time concurrently with his murder sentence.
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