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Langley crossbow killer found guilty of manslaughter, not second-degree murder

Court convicted on a lesser charge with verdict rendered Wednesday, May 29
Investigators on scene in 2022 after Nicholas Ball’s body was discovered in a vacant lot on 208th Street. (Langley Advance Times files)

Jason Robert William Griffiths has been found guilty of manslaughter in the crossbow killing of Nicholas Ball in 2022.

Griffiths was initially charged with second-degree murder and the verdict was read by Justice Michael Tammen on Wednesday, May 29 in New Westminster Supreme Court.

Tammen spent about 45 minutes reading the reasons for his verdict, with more than a dozen family members and supporters of Ball watching in the courtroom.

The judge described the testimony and circumstances of the killing revealed at the five-day trial held earlier this spring.

The crossbow attack took place after a confrontational encounter on March 28, 2022 between Ball and Griffiths, with Shane Stanway, who served as the Crown’s primary witness, also present.

Griffiths, a homeless man, had been camping in a vacant lot about a hundred meters from 208th Street in Willoughby.

Ball had sent Griffiths what Tammen described as hostile and threatening texts earlier that day. Apparently, Griffiths had accused Ball of stealing a cellphone, and Ball was angrily denying it.

One of the string of texts told Griffiths to bring his crossbow, because he would need it.

“You better find somewhere to hide,” said another of Ball’s texts.

Ball appeared at Griffiths’ camp that afternoon. His interactions with Griffiths were hostile, with testimony at trial saying that Ball threw some of Griffiths’ personal items into a campfire.

Both Griffiths and Stanway testified that Ball appeared to be deliberately antagonizing Griffiths, Tammen said.

Eventually, Griffiths went back into his tent and got his crossbow. He stood outside the tent and told Ball to leave.

According to Griffiths, Ball said “I should just light you up right now, what are you going to do about it?”

Griffiths testified that Ball took two steps towards him. Griffiths fired the crossbow, hitting Ball in the torso. Ball ran down a path away from the camp site, but died nearby.

A later autopsy determined that Ball had been struck in the heart by the bolt.

Griffiths called 911 the next day, and told police that the killing had been in self-defence.

However, Tammen found that the case did not meet the legal requirements to be deemed self-defence, despite the fact that Griffiths may have felt threatened.

He noted that Griffiths wanted Ball to leave, and decided, in his own words, to “up the ante” by getting the crossbow out of his tent, and turning the safety off.

“Mr. Griffiths chose the most dangerous means available to him,” Tammen said.

Griffiths decided to escalate the situation by arming himself with the most lethal weapon he had, and while he may have felt threatened, the nature of the threat was not egregious, the judge said.

Ball may have been holding a stick at the time he was shot, but that was as far as it went.

When it came to second-degree murder versus manslaughter, Tammen said that the evidence did not support a murder conviction, as he did not believe Griffiths had the specific intent to kill.

He accepted much of Griffiths’ testimony, including about feeling frightened and angry. The judge noted that Griffiths, who had a long-term substance abuse problem, was under the influence of fentanyl.

Firing the crossbow was a split-second instinctive reaction, said Tammen.

After hearing Tammen’s verdict of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder, members of Ball’s family reacted angrily.

Griffiths spent most of the hearing leaning forward in the prisoner’s box, looking down, sometimes leaning so far forward his head was almost resting on the railing in front of him. He would sit up straighter for a time, then slump down again. He did not have a visible reaction to the verdict.

After the verdict was read, Crown prosecutor Sonya Bertrand asked that bail be revoked for Griffiths.

Defence lawyer Bobby Movassaghi opposed that, noting that Griffiths spent much of 2022 and 2023 in pre-trial custody, only being released on bail late last year.

Sentencing is expected sometime this summer, after a pre-sentencing report is completed for the court.

READ ALSO: IHIT charges Langley man for March murder of 29-year-old

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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