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Appeal outlined for Victoria man convicted in bus death

Jan 13 2012

A Victoria man is appealing his manslaughter conviction for the February 2009 death of Ariana May Simpson, calling the jury's verdict unreasonable and not supported by the evidence.

On Sept. 30, after a 13-day trial, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Christopher Michael Groves guilty of manslaughter for pushing Simpson onto the road, where she was crushed beneath the rear wheels of a bus.

On Dec. 14, Justice Barbara Fisher sentenced Groves to one year in prison, followed by two years' probation, and ordered him to perform 250 hours of community service hours helping the homeless.

However, the day before sentencing, Groves's defence lawyer, Robert Claus, filed his notice with the B.C. Court of Appeal, asking that the conviction be quashed and an acquittal entered, or that the court order a new trial.

In the two-page notice, Claus says Fisher erred in law by admitting into evidence an out- of-court video statement by witness Nicholas Emerson.

"The evidence was admitted for the proof of its contents in circumstances where the statement was not necessary and not reliable," says the appeal.

Fisher also erred in admitting Groves's statement to the arresting police officers. The statement could not be said to be the product of an operating mind, says the appeal.

The trial heard that Groves and his friend George Westwood had gone out for a few drinks on the evening of Feb. 12. Westwood became very intoxicated and walked to the corner of Quadra Street and Pandora Avenue to buy cocaine. An uncomfortable Groves went with him.

Westwood got into an argument with some of the street people and took off his shirt to fight. Groves urged Westwood to leave the corner with its "junkies" and "crackheads."

Simpson, 20, a much-loved member of Victoria's street community, walked up to Groves and threw a straw at him.

During two days of deliberations, the jury asked to review the video statement Emerson gave to police. Fisher instructed the jury that they must listen, not only to Emerson's video statement to police, but to his evidence and cross-examination during the trial.

The jury has heard that Emerson, a 42-year-old addict, has no memory of the events. He attributed his memory loss to the heavy use of alcohol, cocaine, heroin, barbiturates and opiates.

On the video, Emerson said he saw Groves and Westwood arrive and described them as loud and pushy. "I seen one guy grab on to one of my friends, so I went up there to grab him back," he told the police officer.

Groves was calling the street people names. Simpson and another girl were standing near the street corner, said Emerson.

Then Groves pushed Simpson "like a bench press and, wham, she was dead," said Emerson. "I saw it in slow motion ... I was just, 'No way,' " he said.

On Dec. 23, Groves was released on bail pending his appeal. A date for the appeal has not been set.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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