Robert Bradshaw was sentenced to life in prison on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Laura Lamoureux and Marc Bontkes, killed five days apart in Langley and Surrey, B.C., in 2009.
A B.C. Court of Appeal decision released Tuesday found the judge should not have admitted a videotaped statement in which the former co-accused, Roy Thielen, implicated Bradshaw.
"Mr. Thielen had given a number of inconsistent statements. The difficulty was that it was not possible, on its face, to determine which statement was the truth and which was a lie," wrote Justice Elizabeth Bennett for the three-member panel.
Thielen was the target of a "Mr. Big" investigation, during which he initially told an undercover officer he had been hired by a drug dealer to kill both victims and was the sole shooter.
He later told an officer posing as a crime boss that Bradshaw was involved, and he set up two meetings with Bradshaw that were covertly recorded by police.
Thielen was arrested in July 2010 and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and a third unrelated count of attempted murder.
In August 2010, Thielen performed a so-called "re-enactment" of the murders on camera for police. In the video, he said he shot Lamoureux while Bradshaw waited in a car, and days later, Bradshaw shot Bontkes with the same gun.
Prior to Bradshaw's trial in 2012, Thielen was allowed to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and the charge of attempted murder was dropped, according to the appeal decision.
The Crown successfully argued for the video to be included in Bradshaw's trial when Thielen refused to testify.
In his testimony, Bradshaw denied any involvement in the murders. He said any incriminating statements he made during covertly recorded meetings were part of a "role play" that Thielen urged him to take on to impress the fictional crime boss.
The appeal panel ruled Tuesday that the judge should not have admitted the re-enactment video because it did not meet the high threshold of trustworthiness needed for hearsay evidence.
The video should not have been played for the jury without cross-examination of Thielen, wrote Bennett.
"The judge did not sufficiently address the issues that would detract from the truthfulness of Mr. Thielen's statements, including his considerable motive to lie to extricate himself from his admissions ... that he committed first-degree murder."