B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Drug dealer’s first-degree murder conviction upheld for shooting Surrey man in chest

James Erickson was shot point-blank in the chest with a shotgun on Feb. 2, 2009, at his Surrey apartment

His last name’s Gallant – his crime was anything but.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of David Clifford Gallant. A jury found he shot James Erickson point-blank in the chest with a shotgun on Feb. 2, 2009, at the victim’s Surrey apartment.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett dismissed his appeal on June 5, in Vancouver, with Justices John Savage and Bruce Butler concurring. Gallant’s lawyer argued the jury was misled concerning how they could draw inferences from the evidence at trial. Two Vetrovec witnesses, who Bennett noted had received benefits in exchange for their cooperation, testified Gallant was the one who pulled the trigger, and that they had planned to shoot Erickson in the leg.

Regina versus Vetrovec was a 1982 case before the Supreme Court of Canada that led to what’s known as a “Vetrovec warning.” That’s when a judge cautions a jury about the reliability of evidence given by a certain Crown witness. There is a publication ban on information that could identify these witnesses, referred to only as T.T. and L.C.

Bennett found the trial judge properly warned the jury about how to approach the testimony of unsavory witnesses.

“In my view, it was open to the jury to convict Mr. Gallant of first-degree murder on the evidence that shooting Mr. Erickson was planned and deliberate and that when he did shoot him, he shot him point-blank in the chest,” Bennett said. “While it was open to the jury to have a reasonable doubt on the issue of planning and deliberation, the evidence could also support a finding of first degree.”

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The court heard two men were with Erickson, in the living room of his Surrey apartment, and that he left the room and walked out of sight to the front door. They told the court they heard a loud “bang” and Erickson, bleeding, ran into the living room, collapsed on the floor and died.

A few months after Gallant broke up with his girlfriend, T.T., she told police he was involved in Erickson’s death and that Gallant was also known as David Sadler. She had a “substantial” criminal record, Bennett noted, and testified she and Gallant sold drugs and knew Erickson “from the Surrey drug scene.”

She said someone had told Gallant that Erickson “had robbed him of his drugs.”

T.T. testified she and Gallant decided to knock on Erickson’s door, and when he answered, Gallant would shoot him in the leg.

After the shooting, the couple took off down different staircases, met up at the Surrey Central SkyTrain Station and grabbed a taxi to the apartment of L.C., another drug dealer. He told the court that Gallant told him he went to scare Erickson, and when he asked Gallant what kind of ammo he used, Gallant told him he thought he used a slug.

“L.C. said in that case, Mr. Erickson was probably dead,” Bennett noted. “Mr. Gallant seemed upset.”

The judge noted T.T. entered into an immunity agreement with the Crown. “In exchange for her testimony, she received complete immunity for her involvement in Mr. Erickson’s death, complete immunity for all other offences she had committed over her lifetime, which she had disclosed to police in her statements, and payment for certain expenses.”

During L.C.’s police interview, Bennett noted, he at first denied Gallant had told him anything about the shooting, to which police replied he’s be charged “if he did not tell the truth.

“The police also told L.C. that T.T. informed them that Mr. Gallant had confessed to him, played part of T.T.’s statement, and told him that T.T. had passed a lie detector test. Only then did L.C. tell the police that Mr. Gallant had confessed to shooting Mr. Erickson,” Bennett noted in her reasons for judgment.

Bennett noted that intent to kill may be inferred from shooting someone in the chest, and if Gallant had always planned to do that, regardless of what he told his girlfriend he was going to do, “then this would have been a planned and deliberate murder. That inference was open to the jury.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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