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Shafia Trial: Closing Arguments Conclude After Bomb Scare

01/26/2012 10:08 EST
AP

KINGSTON, Ont. - The evidence against three people accused of killing half their family over honour is "irrefutable," a Crown attorney told the jury in the case in closing arguments that lasted well into the evening after a bomb threat delayed proceedings earlier Thursday.


Crown attorney Laurie Lacelle told the jury hearing the Shafia family murder trial that Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, were each responsible for planning and carrying out four murders, executed to get rid of family members causing them dishonour.


"Shafia, Tooba and Hamed had decided that there was a diseased limb on their family tree," she said. "Their decision was to trim the diseased limb and prune the tree back to the good wood."


Lacelle urged the jury to find all three guilty in what the Crown has alleged is a quadruple honour killing of Shafia's three daughters and his other polygamous wife.


"You know this was not an accident — it was murder," Lacelle said at the end of her lengthy address.


"They did what they each believed had to be done. Now it's your turn. Find them all guilty as charged. There is no other way."


The end of Lacelle's remarks to the weary jury came after 7 p.m., at the end of a long day, at the end of a long trial, which began Oct. 20.


Judge Robert Maranger will give the jury his final instructions Friday, and it's anticipated the case will be in their hands in the late afternoon.


To get his estimated five- or six-hour charge finished in one day court will convene early, at 9 a.m., and sit right through — with some breaks — until it is completed.


Maranger told the jury to have an extra cup of coffee or two in the morning.


"Thank you for your co-operation," he told them. "It was a weird day."


The courthouse in which the Shafia trial is taking place was evacuated just before court was about to start Thursday morning. While police would only say there was a ''security concern,'' a source told The Canadian Press the reason for the evacuation was a bomb threat.


Counsel, staff, members of the media and dozens of spectators who have turned out every day to watch the trial were let back in shortly before 2 p.m., but under heavy security and screening.


Const. Steve Koopman couldn't say if the security threat was related to the Shafia trial.


"I cannot say 100 per cent, I think it's relatively coincidental that today that Superior Court Justice Maranger was going to charge the jury and this is the most high-profile case in town," he said.


Shafia, Yahya and Hamed have each pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder. They're accused of killing teenage Shafia daughters Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's first wife in his polygamous marriage.


The bodies of the four were found June 30, 2009, in a car at the bottom of a canal in Kingston, where the Montreal family had stopped on their way back from a trip to Niagara Falls, Ont.


The Crown alleges it was a premeditated murder, staged to look like an accident after it was carried out. But the defence lawyers told the jury in their closing addresses that the evidence does indeed fit with the deaths being an accident.


The family originally told police that Zainab had borrowed the car keys to get luggage out of the car while they were at a motel, and that was the last they saw of her or the others. They must have all gone on a joy ride that turned tragic, the family said.


But four months after the family's arrests Hamed told a university student hired on the sly by his father as a private investigator that he was present when the car went in the canal and had witnessed the tragic accident. He didn't call police at the time, and for that he is "guilty of being stupid" and "morally blameworthy," but not of murder, McCann said.


The Crown suggested Wednesday that story was a "complete fabrication" concocted by Hamed to explain the evidence.

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