TANIA COWELL CASE:
Appeal court orders a new trial into stabbing death of 36-year-old Stoney Creek woman
The Court of Appeal has overturned the manslaughter conviction of Haiden Suarez Noa, giving the f amily of his victim, Tania Cowell, new hope for the justice they feel they were denied.
The panel of three judges that heard the appeal last month released its decision Friday and ordered a new trial on a second-degree murder charge.
Suarez Noa at his 2015 trial admitted to stabbing Cowell, his partner and the mother of his then five-month-old son, in their Stoney Creek apartment in March 2013.
He said he “lost it” when she threatened to leave him and keep their son from him.
He was charged with second-degree murder, but a jury found him guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter, which shocked her family and local women’s groups.
“We are so happy that somebody finally saw how wrong this is,” Cowell’s sister-in-law, Julie Cowell, said Friday.
“Tania has no voice now. I will never see this as manslaughter. I’ve always had a pit in my stomach on how could this (manslaughter finding) happen.” Julie and her husband, Ivon, are the legal guardians of Tania and Suarez Noa’s son, Bailun, and are raising him as their own.
In the appeal, the Crown argued the trial judge erred in allowing Suarez Noa’s lawyer to present testimony from forensic psychiatrist Dr. Julian Gojer and by allowing Suarez Noa to use the defence of provocation.
Both allowances were sticking points for Cowell’s family and friends.
The Hamilton Woman Abuse Working Group — a coalition of 20 Hamilton agencies that showed up at Suarez Noa’s sentencing — gave an unprecedented victim i mpact statement under a new measure that recognizes the effects of crime can be far-reaching and cause harm or loss to a community as a whole. Natasha Dobler, a member of the group, said then that members were “horrified and infuriated” at the message being sent to abusers that “they could literally get away with murder.”
Julie Cowell said Friday the overturned conviction now offers hope to all women. “We’ve got to get the precedent right. Let’s give him the true conviction he deserves.”
The trial heard Cowell, 36, was stabbed 11 times, but Suarez Noa, then 35, only remembered stabbing her twice. Suarez Noa was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
The Court of Appeal found that “significant parts of Dr. Gojer’s evidence were inadmissible… (and) may very well have affected the outcome at trial.”
In particular, the expert’s opinion that provocation could have triggered Suarez Noa’s “sudden outburst of intense emotions” that led to an “impulsive act” didn’t fall into the realm of admissibility.
But the Appeal Court rejected the part of the argument that the trial judge erred in allowing Suarez Noa’s own provocation defence.
“It was for the jury to decide whether to give effect to that defence having regard to the entirety of the evidence.”
Tania Cowell was stabbed 11 times.
Haiden Suarez Noa told court he’d “lost it.”