There are a lot of spectators and members of the media here. It will be a packed courtroom. The accused have just arrived.
The lawyer representing Mohammad Shafia said the timeline on June 30, 2009 simply doesn't add up to murder.
Peter Kemp told the jury the time it would take to individually drown the four victims, place their bodies into the Nissan, push it into the locks and then drop off Tooba and Shafia at the motel doesn't fit with the evidence presented.
Kemp said the process of killing the four women would take at least 117 minutes. He detailed the process and asked the jury to think of it like a "motion picture" playing out. The time between when Shafia and Hamed were seen at the Kingston East Motel, just before 2:30 a.m., and when Hamed's cell was captured on a cell tower in Montreal, at 6:48 a.m. just doesn't leave enough time for a murder, he said.
"There was no time in that scenario for a murder to take place," he said.
Kemp asked the jury to consider how it would be possible to drown four people without the others knowing or running away and without leaving any sign of a struggle.
"The problems would have been almost insurmountable," Kemp told the jury, detailing that the accused would have had to lure each victim out of the Nissan separately, drown each one without alerting the others or anyone sleeping in boats moored nearby, carried each body back up a hill from the nearby pond and put each one back in the car.
Kemp said if the accused wanted to kill the four women, they could have taken them back to the Middle East or Europe where, he said, they could "easily get away with murder and not risk getting caught."
Shafia, "certainly would not have taken (the surviving children) on a trip where they could be witnesses to murder," Kemp said.
Kemp also addressed the motive presented by the Crown: that the women were killed to restore the family's honour. "Honour killings are not permitted in Islam," he told the jury. "If you comb through the Koran, you would not find a single passage that advocates honour killing .. . but, there are plenty of prohibitions against murder."
Kemp also told the jury that the evidence presented about the girls' behaviour (Geeti's missing curfew, Sahar's absences at school, Zainab's marriage and Rona as a burden on the family) would be trivial motivations for murder. Many of the issues, including the issues with Zainab and her failed marriage, were resolved before the family went to Niagara Falls, he told the jury.
"You would also have to accept that Shafia was so stupid that he took (the surviving children) along as witnesses," Kemp said. He added the jury would also have to accept the father of seven, who fled Afghanistan and moved around the world to give his children a better life, would become "so black, so dark .. . so evil," that he would kill three of them.
"At the end of the day," Kemp concluded, "You don't know how the Nissan got into the Kingston Mills Locks on June 30. You don't know who was there besides Rona and the girls . . . .You don't know why the girls didn't get out when the Nissan got hung up on the edge of the lock."
"Mr. Shafia stands before you charged with four counts of murder. Probable guilt is not enough. With all these unknowns, it is only speculation that can provide answers and speculation is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Kemp told the jury.
With that, he ended his closing remarks.
Tooba Yahya's lawyer David Crowe then presented his closing arguments. His address to the jury focused heavily on the testimony of an honour killing expert who was called by the prosecution.
Crowe described Shafia as a "cosmopolitan business man," and the family as a liberal one that valued education heavily.
He reviewed the testimony given by Yahya earlier this month explaining some of the comments caught on police wiretaps. Primarily that she knew the site was "dark as a grave" the night of the deaths because officers told her when the family toured the site with police that there was no light.
He pointed out that the honour killing expert who testified for the prosecution did not have specific field experience in Afghanistan. He said the accused all came from prosperous families, valued education and do not fit the profile described by the expert.
Crowe pointed out that the expert testified that the reaction to honour killings both inside and outside Afghanistan is outrage. Why, he asked the jury, would outrage equate to restoration of honour?
Court has adjourned for the day.
The court heard more from Yahya's lawyer David Crowe after the lunch break. He pointed to the findings of the doctor who performed the autopsy on the women and that the cause of each of their deaths was drowning.
By way of background, the post mortum findings were presented in court on Nov. 28. The report describes Rona Amir's offical cause of death as drowning. She had bruising on the "upper third and lower third of the left sternomastoid muscle." The report states that bruising can be accounted for by movements in the process of drowning. There was also bruising on the inside of the scalp over the crown.
Geeti's cause of death was also drowning. She had a bruise over the right collar bone area and on the inside of the right crown of the scalp, according to the report.
Sahar's cause of death was also drowning. She had no bruising, according to the post-mortum report.
Zainab's cause of death was drowning. The post mortum found two small bruises on the inside of her scalp.
Crowe pointed out to the jury that the forensic pathologist who testified in court said he could not determine if any of those bruises came from force that would have rendered them unconscious.
Crowe said court had already heard testimony that the bruises could be consistent with the car crashing into the water and the deceased striking their head on a hard surface like the doors or windows of the car. If that was the case, the women would have been alive when the vehicle went in the water because bruising doesn't occur after death.
He also pointed to the toxicology reports on the four women. They all came back negative to all substances tested.
"Every possible toxicology test was done to determine if there was any given to the deceased," Crowe said.
Crowe then questioned the selection of the locks if this was a case of deliberate murder. He told the jury there were homes and people sleeping on boats not far away. There were also places that would have been easier to push the Nissan into the water and where it would have still been found quickly. He pointed to the "mill pond" adjacent to the locks, which can be accessed directly from the road.
He also echoed Kemp's argument about timeline and probability of the Crown's theory. If the women were drown in the pond, as suggested, and then put in the Nissan, "the deceased would have to be persuaded to go to that area to be drowned or incapacitated to such an extent that they become unconscious," Crowe told the jury. They would then have to be brought back up a hill and put in the car with no one noticing, he said.
Crowe also attacked the idea that the deaths were an honour killing. "Surely it is not enough to day the deceased women were murdered because they dishonoured their family. . . There are just too many questions that can't be ignored in making that determination."
He said the fact that the family didn't go directly to police on the morning they realized the girls were missing was reasonable.
"Tooba was hopeful her daughters would return," Crowe told the jury. "Put yourself in her situation: She was in a strange city. She didn't have a vehicle. She had no working knowledge of English. . . She and Shafie knew Hamed was returning. . . They waited for him to return."
Crowe finished his address to the jury by saying that Yahya simply had no motive to kill the women. Her daughters described her as "an angel" in early 2009, he said. Her reason for living, he said , was "to raise her children, to take care of her children and to protect her children."
He said Yahya made no attempt to hide Rona's diary, later used by the Crown as evidence of motive to the killings, when she found it before the police searched the home and seized it. She also kept the photos of her daughters that allegedly sent her husband into a rage after their deaths because "the last thing she wanted to do was destroy any memory of her children," Crowe said.
"The strong relationships she had with all her daughters should certainly raise a reasonable doubt that she was [not] involved in any scheme to get rid of those daughters," Crowe told the jury. "There is reasonable doubt."
Crowe finished his submissions today. Tomorrow we'll hear from Hamed Shafia's lawyer and the beginning of the Crown's closing arguments. Court starts at 10 a.m.
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At the courthouse waiting for the accused to arrive for day 2 of closing arguments.