It’s been almost seven years since Jonathan Styres was killed, and finally Peter Khill — the man who shot and killed Styres in 2016 — has been found guilty of manslaughter.
The verdict was issued on Friday evening just after 5:00 p.m. following 12 hours of deliberations by the jury. Styres partner, Lindsay Hill, issued a statement:
Styres partner, Lindsay Hill, also issued a statement: “Finally, Jon’s killer has been held accountable. While I believe that it should have been second-degree murder, I am relieved that he was found guilty of unlawfully killing Jon. Although there is a conviction, it in no way compares to the loss my daughters and I have endured and will continue to endure.”
Khill will be sentenced on January 20. On Tuesday, Justice Andrew Goodman issued a $100,000 bail for Khill and approved a request by defence attorney Jeffrey Manishen who said that Khill should be permitted to remain out of jail over the holidays.
Khill was already out on bail without incident for more than 60 months, between his original arrest in 2016 and a new release order in February 2020.
Goodman acknowledged that the bail order would be controversial, permitting Khill to remain with his family over Christmas while victim Jonathan Styres will never have another holiday with his family. But said that Khill should prepare himself for a long sentence in a federal penitentiary.
The minimum sentence for manslaughter with a firearm is four years in prison.
This was the third trial for Khill for the death of Jonathan Styres in 2016. A previous trial saw Khill found not guilty of second-degree murder in 2018. That was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal. That overturning was upheld by the Supreme Court, who ordered a new trial in 2020.
Styres, 29, was fatally shot on Feb. 4, 2016 around 3 a.m. on Khill’s property just outside of Hamilton. The Six Nations man was attempting to break into a truck on the property when Khill grabbed a gun from his closet, loaded it and “quietly” went outside and shot Styres, according to the SCC judgement.
Khill went outside, saw someone leaned over the passenger seat, yelled, “hey, hands up” and then fatally shot Styres.
Khill approached Styres after shooting him and searched him for a gun but only found a pocket knife, the judgment noted.
“It’s not open season on trespassers,” said noted Hamilton criminal defense lawyer Dean Paquette, after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a decision to order a retrial. “You’re not simply allowed to kill someone because they’re taking your property or they’re on your property,” Paquette, who is not involved in the case, told the Two Row Times. “You have to present a justification on reasonable grounds as to why you feel justified in responding to that perceived threat as you do.”
Paquette, who has participated in hundreds of homicide cases over his 40-year career, said unlike some jurisdictions in the United States, homeowners cannot kill trespassers with impunity.
He pointed to section 34 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which spells out the justification for self-defence against an unprovoked assault.
Section 34 (1) states: ‘everyone who is unlawfully assaulted without having provoked the assault is justified in repelling force by force if the force he uses is not intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm and is no more than is necessary to enable him to defend himself.’
Section 2 says a person is justified in causing death while repelling an assault if he believes on reasonable grounds that he cannot preserve himself from death or grievous bodily harm.
In this case, the jury was not properly instructed to consider Khill’s actions, which the Supreme Court judgment noted was a “serious error.”
“Mr. Khill’s role in the incident should have been expressly drawn to the attention of the jury,” Justice Sheilah Martin said in her judgment. “The absence of any explanation concerning the legal significance of Mr. Khill’s role in the incident was a serious error.”
“Self-defense will still be left with the jury (in the new trial). But Khill’s own conduct during the incident wasn’t left with the jury to consider and is one of the factors to be considered whether or not self-defense was established,” he said. “So determining whether or not Khill’s conduct was reasonable under the circumstances, the court and the jury is required to consider all relevant circumstances of Khill…including a series of factors that are enumerated in section 34 (2) of the Criminal Code, one of which is Mr. Khill’s role in the incident.”
Six Nations Elected Council released a statement on the verdict Friday evening.
“While Six Nations of the Grand River is glad that Jonathan’s killer is being held accountable for his death, we are disappointed that the clear evidence presented was not enough to convince the jury of second-degree murder. Jonathan is not alive today because he was intentionally shot twice. Indigenous people deserve a judicial system that values our lives and one that is worthy of our trust. There is still plenty of work to be done to ensure an equitable and fair justice system that meaningfully addresses the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples within that system. Our thoughts remain with Jonathan’s entire family, his partner, Lindsay Hill, and their two daughters as they continue to heal from Jonathan’s death.” SNGREC said, “After nearly seven years of investigation, court proceedings, pain, and heartache, Six Nations has finally been given a sense of closure knowing that Jonathan’s killer has been brought to justice. We must now heal from this as a community and lean on one another as we continue to process our grief.”
In 2018, both Six Nations and Chippewas of the Thames passed motions in council to banish Peter Khill from their territories.
Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Council Chief Myeengun Henry shared August 13 resolution and an accompanying letter with the Two Row Times. An August 13 band council resolution for COTTFN says “the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Council stands in solidarity with Indigenous victims across Canada in seeking justice, and demands for reform of Canada’s judicial system in order to mitigate its many discriminatory and unjust practices…” The resolution “banishes Mr. Peter Khill indefinitely, and further declare that he shall not be permitted to enter the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation Territory for any means.” Henry says the banishment is a protective measure, saying the verdicts in both the Khill and Stanley acquittals for the shooting deaths of Colten Boushie and Jonathan Styres respectively, demonstrate that “indigneous people are subject to no protection if a non-indigenous person decides to take their life. How are the families expected to cope knowing that their children’s killers can freely walk next to them in grocery stores, city parks and in any public venue?” Six Nations of the Grand River passed a motion in council to banish Khill from coming onto the territory in June of 2018. “Possibly this action will encourage common sense to be exercised instead of shooting indigneous people point blank and taking law into their own hands.” Six Nations community members who are struggling with this news and need someone to talk to are encouraged to reach out to our 24-Hour Crisis Line at (519)-445-2204, or to Six Nations Mental Health and Addictions at (519)-445-2143.