A tentative start date was set today for what is expected to be a sensational, marathon murder trial in Kingston, Ontario. Three members of a Montreal family, Mohammad Shafia, 57 (inset), his wife Tooba, 41, and his son Hamed, 20, will go on trial beginning Oct. 11 this year. Each is charged with four counts of first-degree murder. They are charged with killing four other family members, including three teenage Shafia sisters, who were discovered dead inside a car that was found June 30, 2009, submerged in a shallow canal in Kingston .
The trio of accused in the mass murder case appeared in a Kingston courtroom today to listen to more discussions that are part of pre-trial proceedings. Most of what is being said during these hearings is covered by sweeping publication bans that prohibit its disclosure until the trial concludes. But during today’s proceedings, Justice Robert Maranger also set the start date for the trial at October 11. “If we start it October 11, we have a good chance of finishing it before [Christmas],” Maranger said.
The start of the trial could be delayed, depending on the availability of lawyer Patrick McCann, who represents Hamed Shafia. McCann was not in court today because of other cases. He won’t know until later in May whether another case he’s handling will be wrapped up allowing him to start the Shafia case early in October.
A mammoth jury-selection process will be conducted first when the trial opens. Lawyers may screen 1,000 or more citizens in order to find 12 people who can judge the case impartially. Jury selection is expected to run for seven consecutive days.
Peter Kemp, the Kingston lawyer who represents Shafia, also asked Maranger to issue a formal request to have Hamed Shafia moved from the Quinte Detention Centre, where he’s being held, to a detention centre in Ottawa, to make it easier for McCann to consult with his client. McCann is based in Ottawa. Maranger agreed to issue the request, though he noted that the placement of prisoners is at the discretion of provincial Corrections authorities. He can’t order them to send Hamed Shafia to Ottawa.
The three accused have been behind bars at the Quinte Detention Centre, a provincial jail in Napanee, Ontario, since their arrest in July 2009. The murders were an alleged honour killing. The Shafias are from Afghanistan. They moved to Montreal in 2007.