R. v. Cuthill, 2018 Alberta Court Of Appeal – Self-Interested Letter From Co-Accused Not Admissible For It’s Truth


Three co-accused appealed first-degree murder convictions. Issue on Tim Rempel’s appeal was whether the trial judge should have admitted a letter authored by the co-accused as an exception to the hearsay rule.

Held: Appeal dismissed.

Letter did not fall under traditional exception: “[t]he thrust of the letter is not an admission against penal interest, but an attempt to exculpate his brother and sister-in-law, while admitting to some vague involvement in the victim’s death.” As per Demeter, [1978] 1 SCR 538 if “upon the whole tenure the weight is in favour of the declarant, it is not against his interest.” Even if the letter fell under the traditional exception, the presumption of reliability would be rebutted under the principled approach. The circumstances of the statement and any corroborative evidence did not rule out alternatives to the truthfulness of the contents. Even considering the less stringent standard for defence evidence, the letter was “so suspect and unreliable that it would be inadmissible no matter the proponent.”

D. Fedorchuck – Defence Counsel