A man who was convicted of a 2014 fatal hit-and-run in Abbotsford will get a new trial after winning his appeal.
Mario Delellis, 48, was sentenced to three years in prison and a one-year driving ban in November 2017 after a jury found him guilty of dangerous driving causing death and leaving the scene of an accident.
But a B.C. Court of Appeals panel ruled today (Tuesday) that the judge made errors in his instructions to the jury, and that Delellis’s convictions should be set aside and a new trial ordered.
Delellis was convicted of hitting Dwayne McCormick, 41, with his vehicle on July 11, 2014 outside a townhouse complex in the 2200 block of McKenzie Road in Abbotsford.
McCormick died two days later after suffering a cardiac arrest while undergoing surgery for injuries sustained in the accident.
According to court documents, the incident began when Delellis and his common-law partner at the time, Jessyca Rowe, drove to a townhouse complex – from which they had moved a week prior – to pick up their GST rebate cheques.
Delellis got into an argument with one of the complex residents, Chris Bekkering. This led to a physical fight between the two men outside of Delellis’s vehicle and through an open window after Delellis got back into the car.
The court papers say that McCormick and another man then approached Delellis’s vehicle, and McCormick hit the car with a large steel pipe.
Witnesses said McCormick began to walk away, and, as Delellis drove toward him, the driver’s side of the vehicle hit McCormick. He rolled on to the hood and fell to the ground.
Delellis then reversed his car and drove away from the scene.
At least one witness described Delellis as accelerating toward McCormick, the documents state.
Rowe testified that she and Delellis had had previous difficulties with McCormick, including death threats.
She said that, during the altercation on July 11, 2014, McCormick yelled and screamed at her and pushed her up against the car.
Rowe said that at one point after she and Delellis were back in the car, Bekkering was standing behind the vehicle, McCormick was hitting the car with the pipe and the third man was holding on to the car and “punching with one hand” through an open window.
Rowe said the couple “were in panic.”
She said McCormick got closer to the driver’s side of the vehicle as they began to move, but she did not see the vehicle hit McCormick.
Delellis did not testify during the trial, but had admitted that he had been the driver of the vehicle and that injuries sustained in the accident caused McCormick’s death.
“However, it was his position that the evidence did not prove he intentionally drove into Mr. McCormick,” the court documents state.
Delellis appealed his conviction, saying that the trial judge erred when he did not instruct the jury on evidence “relevant to his state of mind at the time of driving and his perception of the events surrounding the vehicle.”
“In the context of this case, where the driving occurred while the appellant was being verbally and physically harassed by more than on person, the absence of direction is said to constitute a critical error,” the court documents state.
The three-judge appeals court panel was unanimous in their decision that Delellis’s conviction should be set aside.