Edmonton man convicted in Grande Prairie murder appeals verdict

A man serving a life sentence for a murder outside a Grande Prairie bar is appealing his conviction.

In June, Nicholas Richard Harris was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years in connection to the death of John William Rock.

Harris — who was found guilty of first-degree murder despite arguing at trial that he shot Rock in self-defence — filed an appeal on Friday.

The notice states Harris will argue that Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Eldon Simpson made legal errors related to finding there was planning and deliberation — a necessary element for a first-degree murder conviction. Harris cites several other grounds for appeal, including that Simpson erred in applying the legal principles for self-defence and credibility. 

Harris is seeking an acquittal of the murder charge. 

Rock was killed outside the Canadian Brewhouse in Grande Prairie in October 2014.

In Simpson’s written decision in the case, the judge found the shooting was planned and deliberate.

Simpson noted that Harris started carrying a handgun months earlier when the two former friends — who were part of the same drug-dealing ring — had a falling out over a $30,000 drug debt that Harris owed Rock.

Harris had testified he aimed downward trying to stop Rock in an attack, but the judge pointed out that video showed a second shot Harris fired was horizontal and hit Rock in the chest.

Court heard that the two men met inside the Brewhouse the night of the killing. Harris thought they would try to settle their debt. He also believed two drug gang members were being held hostage by Rock and some of his associates.

Evidence cited in the written decision showed the two men moved outside and Rock threw two punches that hit Harris. Harris shot him once in the leg and once in the chest as Rock was still coming at him.