Convicted Hell’s Angels hitman gets public funding for murder appeal

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Thirteen years after his conviction on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, a Nova Scotia man has been granted a publicly funded attorney for his appeal.

A jury convicted Dean Daniel Kelsie following a trial in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia before Justice Felix A. Cacchione.

Witnesses at his March 2003 trial said Kelsie was a Hell’s Angels hitman who pulled the trigger when Sean Simmons, 31, was shot in the head in the lobby of an apartment building in north-end Dartmouth.

Simmons had run afoul of the Hells Angels, the jury heard.

Three other men were also convicted in the case.

Kelsie, now 43, is serving a life sentence at Cowansville Institution in Quebec, with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

He filed an appeal of the conviction on Nov. 3, 2003. The appeal has not yet been set down for argument.

Kelsie’s appeal, filed by counsel Phillip Campbell and Sean MacDonald, maintains the judge erred in his instruction to the jury on the mental element required for conviction of an aider to a first degree murder where it is alleged that the murder was planned and deliberate, and that he failed to instruct the jury on the availability of manslaughter as a verdict.

His appeal also maintains Cacchione erred in instructing the jury regarding hearsay evidence, and that he failed to direct the jury on the defence of abandonment in light of the assertions in Kelsie’s statement to the police.

Judge J.A. Farrar issued his written decision Oct. 6.

“The Attorney General of Nova Scotia has conceded that Mr. Kelsie has met the criteria for the appointment of counsel,” Farrar wrote, adding that it is in the interest of justice that Kelsie be appointed counsel.

In 2013, the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission reported that an appeal committee of the commission had upheld the decision of staff counsel to deny funding to the appellant “on the basis that there is a lack of legal merit” in the appeal.

However, legal aid may be reconsidered in light of Farrar’s decision, he wrote.

The judge ordered the attorney general to pay $7,500 plus taxable disbursements in costs to Kelsie, but declined to specifically appoint Campbell and MacDonald to represent him.

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