A retrial has been granted by the B.C. Court of Appeal to a Vernon man found guilty of second-degree murder.
William Victor Schneider, born in 1967, was found guilty by a jury on Oct. 19, 2018, of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Japanese exchange student Natsumi Kogawa, 30, in the Lower Mainland in 2016. Kogawa was reported missing Sept. 12, 2015, after having last been seen in Burnaby four days prior.
Video footage surfaced showing Kogawa and Schneider walking together the day she disappeared.
Kogawa’s body was discovered Sept. 29, 2016, on the grounds of the Gabriola Mansion on Vancouver’s Davie Street. Schneider was arrested that same day in Vernon and charged with her murder.
He appealed his conviction on the grounds that the trial judge erred in admitting an overheard phone conversation; failed to instruct the jury on the “concurrence” principle; and failed to seek clarification on an ambiguous question asked by the jury, and which was answered incorrectly.
Schneider’s lawyer argued that the errors, individually or cumulatively, warrant a new trial.
In a 59-page decision, two of three B.C. Court of Appeal justices agreed and ordered a new trial Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Justices Goepel and Saunders said the overheard telephone conversation should not have been admitted into evidence.
“Its admission amounts to reversible error and warrants a new trial,” said the Justices. “The utterances were not logically relevant, as they lacked sufficient context for the jury to be able to determine their meaning.”
Justice DeWitt-Van Oosten argued the appeal should be dismissed, and that the conversation was properly admitted.
“It was logically relevant to an issue at trial and there is no principled basis on which to interfere with the judge’s assessment of probative value and prejudicial effect,” she wrote.
The second and third grounds for appeal were dismissed by all three Justices.
No date has been set for a new trial.
The BC Prosecution Service has said it will take the time necessary to carefully review the decision from the BC Court of Appeal. No decision will be made regarding the next steps in the process until the review is complete.