Shafia brother asks court to hear case
TORONTO — A man convicted of murdering his three sisters and another woman is taking his case to the country’s top court, arguing new evidence showing he was a youth at the time of the deaths should not have been dismissed.
Hamed Shafia and his parents were found guilty in January 2012 of four counts of first-degree murder — killings their trial judge described as being motivated by their “twisted concept of honour.”
The bodies of Shafia’s teenage sisters and his father’s first wife in a polygamous marriage were found in a car at the bottom of the Rideau Canal in Kingston, Ont., in June 2009.
During an appeal at the Court of Appeal for Ontario — which he lost in November — Shafia had argued, among other things, that new evidence showed he was too young to be tried as an adult and should have been tried separately.
The appeal court found no reason to allow Shafia’s new evidence, which it said was not compelling.
But, in an application for leave to appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada, Shafia’s lawyers argue the appeal court was wrong and had not applied a standard test — known as the Palmer test — for admitting fresh evidence.
“The Palmer test for the admission of fresh evidence has been the controlling authority for a generation . ... If it had been applied by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in this case, the evidence would have been admitted,” Shafia’s lawyers argue in documents submitted to the Supreme Court.
“The approach taken by the Court of Appeal now introduces a troubling uncertainty into the scope and operation of the traditional rule.”
The Shafia family was originally from Afghanistan but fled at the outbreak of war in the country and eventually immigrated to Canada. Shafia’s lawyers had told the Ontario appeal court that, at the time of his trial, Shafia didn’t know he could be a year younger than he thought he was and neither did his father or his trial counsel.
After Shafia’s conviction, documents were discovered that suggested the man was actually 17 at the time of his family members’ deaths, not 18 as previously thought, his lawyers said.
“These documents tended to show that … a young person was improperly tried, convicted and sentenced before an adult court,” Shafia’s memorandum of argument to the Supreme Court said.
An adult convicted of first-degree murder faces life without parole for 25 years. A young offender, sentenced as an adult, faces a maximum of life without parole for 10 years.
Hamed Shafia is arguing he was a youth at the time of the deaths.