September 5, 2008 / 6:37 PM / in 9 years

New trial granted in brutal youth murder

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - An appeals court has again granted a new trial to a young woman convicted of killing a 14-year-old schoolmate in an attack that shocked the country a decade ago.

The panel ruled 2 to 1 on Friday that Kelly Ellard should get a new trial because the court that convicted her in 2005 of second degree murder erred in handling the testimony of a key but potentially unreliable witness.

It would be the fourth trial for Ellard, who is accused of leading other youths in an attack that resulted in the beating and drowning death of Reena Virk near Victoria, British Columbia, in 1997.

Ellard was 15 at the time and the incident sparked debate across Canada about youth violence. Her initial conviction in 2001 was also overturned on appeal. A second trial ended in a hung jury.

Prosecutors said on Friday they have not decided on their next step.

A teenage boy, who like Ellard was tried as an adult but in a separate trial, was also convicted of murder in the incident. Six girls were convicted in youth court of criminal assault.

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson

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