Alberta top court rejects appeal of man who killed Calgary Stampeders football player

CALGARY — Alberta's top court has upheld the conviction of a man who killed a Calgary Stampeders football player outside a nightclub in 2016.

Three Court of Appeal justices unanimously dismissed the appeal of Nelson Lugela, who was found guilty last year of second-degree murder in the death of Mylan Hicks.

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"The appellant has failed to satisfy us that there is any basis to interfere with the trial judge's conviction," the judges wrote in their decision released Wednesday.

Hicks, a 23-year-old player on the practice roster of the Canadian Football League team, was shot twice outside the Marquee Beer Market, where he and his teammates were celebrating a win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The trial heard a disagreement over a spilled drink in the bar intensified in a parking lot after closing time.

Witnesses testified that after some pushing and shoving, a person who appeared to be holding a handgun opened fire at Hicks as he was running for cover.

Several witnesses identified Lugela as the man holding the gun.

Hicks was shot in the abdomen and chest and died in hospital.

He was from Detroit, and family members have said they believed he was safer from gun violence while playing football in Canada.

Lugela argued in his appeal that the trial judge erred by allowing social media photographs showing he had access to a handgun that looked like one police retrieved after the shooting. Lugela argued the pictures constituted "bad character evidence."

"In our view, these photos were properly admitted as they were logically relevant to the issue of identity," the Appeal Court justices wrote.

"These were not photos showing Mr. Lugela with random weapons. They were a series of photos suggesting he possessed the exact type of handgun used in the shooting."

Lugela also argued that the trial judge failed to test the admissibility of witness statements identifying him as the shooter, misapplied the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and gave an unreasonable verdict.

Lugela is also appealing his life sentence with no chance of parole for 18 years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 30, 2020.

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