The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that a Toronto man who planned to kill his estranged wife, but killed her uncle instead, should not be convicted of first-degree murder as the uncle was not the intended target.
At his trial, Willy Ching (“Ching”) was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder. The appeal court dismissed his conviction and substituted a conviction for second-degree murder.
Ching has a history of mental illness and attempted suicide. He had been on medication for depression, which was changed in October, 2009. He was also prescribed sleeping pills and had attempted to overdose on them and had to be hospitalized for three days.
The marriage of Ching and Maria Ching dissolved on September 2, 2009 at which time Ms. Ching moved out of her home and went to live with her uncle Ernesto Agsaulio (“Agsaulio”). Ching was unhappy with the end of his marriage and repeatedly tried to be in contact with Ms. Ching.
On October 25, 2009, Ching rented a car and drove to Agsaulio’s home to see Ms. Ching. Ching’s daughters became aware that he was going to see Ms. Ching and called her to warn her. She proceeded to call Ching and told him to go home. He asked her to come outside so they could talk, and she refused. She then advised Agsaulio that Ching was coming over.
Ching rang the doorbell and Agsaulio opened the door, but refused to allow him to see Ms. Ching. The two men spoke for a few minutes, then Ching pulled out a knife and hatchet that he had brought with him and began slashing at Agsaulio. Agsaulio, his son and some neighbours managed to subdue Ching.
The police arrived and arrested Ching. He gave a statement and stated that he only wanted to talk to his wife, he did not try to kill anyone, and repeatedly stated that the judge should give him the death sentence.
Later, the police informed Ching that Agsaulio had died and he would be charged with first-degree murder. Ching went to use the washroom, began running toward the stairwell and attempted to fling himself headfirst over the railing. A police officer grabbed his waistband and pulled him back.
Ching gave a second statement to the police the next day stating that he brought the weapons with him not to hurt anyone, only to threaten to hurt himself so that his wife would come back to him.
Ching appealed his conviction to the Ontario Court of Appeal arguing that several errors were made in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury.
The trial judge instructed the jury that if it concluded that Ching had planned and deliberated the murder of his estranged wife, this could change the murder of Agsaulio from second to first-degree murder as it was committed in the course of carrying out his plan to murder Ms. Ching.
A murder is considered first-degree murder when it is planned and deliberate. The issue, in this case, is whether Ching could be found guilty of first-degree murder when the jury found that he had planned to kill his wife, but ended up taking the life of another person.
The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial judge’s instruction to the jury regarding the charge of first-degree murder was incorrect. The appeal court wrote:
A finding that the appellant had planned and deliberated the murder of Ms. Ching and that Mr. Agsaulio’s murder was committed while carrying out that plan does not satisfy the statutory requirement for the first-degree murder. ..
There is a sound policy reason for concluding that an accused who intentionally kills person B when in the course of carrying out the planned and deliberate murder of person A will be guilty of second-degree murder, whereas an accused who accidentally or mistakenly kills person B when person A was the target will be convicted of first-degree murder. … This result reflects the fact that in the first case the actual killing may well have been impulsive while in the second, it was the result of a planned and deliberate act.
The appeal court rejected Ching’s arguments that the trial judge erred in his instructions to the jury regarding Ching’s attempt to jump over a staircase upon hearing about Agsaulio’s death, and instructions regarding conflicting statements made by Ching in his testimony and police interviews.
The appeal court dismissed Ching’s conviction for first-degree murder and substituted a conviction for second-degree murder.
The offence of second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.
If you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights. For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.