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Kelowna gangster loses appeal on murder conviction

Joelon “Joey” Verma was convicted of first degree murder in 2013.
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May 24, 2016 - 5:11 PM

KELOWNA – The man who killed Brittney Irving and stole two garbage bags full of marijuana has lost his bid for appeal in Vancouver Supreme Court.

Joelon “Joey” Verma was convicted of first degree murder in 2013. Crown says he shot Irving four times at close range with a shotgun.

Her body was found April 26, 2010 in a wooded area in Joe Rich.

According to a decision released Tuesday, May 24, Verma attempted to appeal on two grounds. He contends the judge should not have accepted as evidence text messages sent by Irving in the days prior to her death and did not properly instruct the jury on the limited use they could make of that evidence.

He also contends that the judge did not adequately instruct the jury that his behavior after the murder was relevant only in determining if he killed Irving and not that it was pre-planned.

“He asserts that the judge should have explicitly instructed the jury that post-offence conduct was not relevant to the question of whether the homicide was planned and deliberate,” the decision says.

During the lengthy trial, the Crown said Irving was in the midst of putting together a large drug deal to help pay legal fees she needed for her legal defence against trafficking charges.

“Mr. Verma pretended to be acting for a buyer who was interested in making a large purchase from Ms. Irving at a high price,” the court of appeal said. “Once she had gathered the required quantity of marijuana, however, he lured her to a remote area and killed her. The Crown suggested that his motive was theft of the marijuana.”

Verma says he had only known Irving a few weeks and she was going to buy two pounds of marijuana from him. He says she did not show up and he hasn’t seen her since.

Justice Harvey Groberman denied the appeal, saying although the texts do provide some information and helped establish a timeline, they were not critical evidence.

“Mr. Verma does not, on this appeal, refer to any specific text messages as particularly damaging or as clearly inadmissible,” he says. “Rather, he notes the sheer volume of text messages admitted, though he concedes that there are no “smoking guns” among them.

“There was no realistic possibility that they could have been used for any improper purpose by the jury.”

Groberman also dismissed Verma’s claim that the trial judge did not properly instruct the jury how to treat his post-offence conduct in determining whether the killing was planned.

“Mr. Verma’s post-offence conduct strongly indicated that he was attempting to cover up evidence that he had murdered Ms. Irving,” he writes. “It was, however, of no obvious value in determining whether the killing was planned and deliberate.”

Verma, a former member of the Independent Soldiers, is currently serving a life sentence for the murder.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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