A Surrey man found guilty of second-degree murder for stabbing another Surrey man to death in the victim’s townhouse in 2019 with a switchblade has lost an appeal of his conviction.
The Court of Appeal for British Columbia rejected Pee Lee Pi’s application to either have a new trial or be convicted of the lesser included crime of manslaughter, after finding the trial judge did not fail, as his lawyer argued, to consider evidence of Pi’s “heavy and chronic” use of methamphetamine on his mental state or applied a lower standard of culpability than required to support a murder conviction.
“There is no dispute that Mr. Pi stabbed Tee Bor and that he inflicted four wounds to the deceased’s torso. The only issue before the court below was that of intent – was it murder at law, or manslaughter? I have concluded that the judge made no reviewable error in reaching his conclusion and entering the impugned conviction. I would dismiss the appeal,” Chief Justice Robert Bauman stated in his March 7 reasons for judgment rendered in Vancouver. Justices David Harris and Peter Willcock concurred.
The court heard Pi, as was the victim Tee Bor, is part of the Karen community, a people of Myanmar. Bor was killed in his home on Feb. 17, 2019. Pi, age 28 when he was tried, was born in a Thailand refugee camp and came to Canada with his parents and four siblings in 2010. Bor, age 68 when he died, lived in a townhouse in Surrey with his wife and two sons. Pi had worked as a roofer with one of Bor’s sons.
Pi was committed under the Mental Health Act on Feb, 27, 2019, and held at Surrey Memorial Hospital’s psychiatric ward until March 7, 2019. “The triage diagnosis was psychosis,” Bauman noted. Pi was arrested for murder that July.
During his 14-day trial before a judge without a jury, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, Pi claimed he’d been suffering from psychosis and paranoia brought on by methamphetamine and didn’t have the intent to commit murder.
The Crown called 14 witnesses, among them psychiatrist Dr. Rakesh Lambda and the defence called four witnesses, including Pi and psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Kolchak. Pi testified he was “high all the time” and spent between $20 and $50 a day on the drug.
Bauman noted in his judgment that the trial judge concluded the evidence “clearly constituted proof of the specific intent necessary for second degree murder,” finding that when Pi inflicted the wounds, “he knew that if he stabbed someone in the torso he ran the risk of causing an injury that would kill them.”
“The judge accepted that Mr. Pi was a regular user of methamphetamine to an extent that caused significant disruption in his life, but not to an extent that had caused him to lose control of his thoughts and actions,” Bauman said.
“I cannot conclude that the judge failed to consider the impact of drug use on Mr. Pi’s mental state,” Bauman decided. “He alluded to the expert evidence and provided reasons for his ultimate conclusion. It was for the judge to weigh this evidence and to give effect to it in consideration of the evidence as a whole.”
Asked during cross-examination if he knew that “inside your torso there are various vital organs that we all need to function properly to keep ourselves alive?”
Pi replied yes.
“And you’d agree that, with this knife, you knew if you stabbed someone in their torso that you run the risk of causing them an injury that was going to kill them?” the prosecutor then asked, to which Pi replied, “Yes, and then when I first bought this knife also I had no intention to kill other people or to hurt other people. In case that somebody would come and attack me, then I will use it to protect myself or to retaliate back.”
“Right,” the prosecutor responded. “But you knew that that knife you purchased was a potentially lethal weapon if you were to stab someone with it in their torso?
“Yes,” Pi replied.
“And you know that people who get stabbed in their torso, they can bleed to death?”
“I don’t know about that.”
“You’re saying you — all right. You — you’re aware that if you stab someone with a knife that they’ll bleed?”
“Yes,” Pi replied.
The trial judge was persuaded that Pi knew, when he stabbed Bor, that death was likely.
The appeal court agreed. “I conclude that when Mr. Pi inflicted the fatal wounds, a volitional act, he knew the knife had the capacity to cause serious injury if it was used to stab someone in the chest or stomach area; that vital organs are in the torso; and that if he stabbed someone in the torso, he ran the risk of causing an injury that was going to kill them,” Bauman found. “His own evidence and the opinions of both psychiatrists support that conclusion. In the result, I find the evidence quite clearly constitutes the necessary proof of intent required to establish liability for second degree murder.”