Murder trial in deaths of women in 2011

A complex murder trial of a Montreal family likely will begin in this eastern Ontario city in 13 months.

KINGSTON, Ont. — A complex murder trial of a Montreal family likely will begin in this eastern Ontario city in 13 months.

The date for the case was tentatively set Wednesday by the judge who will preside over the case after discussions with five lawyers.

Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 40, her husband, Mohammad Shafia, 56, and their son, Hamed, 19, are each charged with four counts of first-degree murder and four counts of conspiracy to commit murder.

Three teenage Shafia sisters, Zainab, 19, Sahari, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, were found dead inside a submerged car discovered June 30 in the Rideau Canal.

Rona Mohammad was Shafia’s first wife.

At the conclusion of a second day of a hearing related to the case, Justice Robert Maranger asked the lawyers about time needed and their availability.

“2010 isn’t going to work for me (but in) 2011 the court is available as soon as counsel are available to get the trial started,” he told the lawyers.

The lawyers agreed that roughly four weeks would be needed to hear pre-trial motions.

“I think that is being very generous,” said Crown prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis.

Maranger said he would block off the month of October for those hearings, beginning Oct. 4.

They could involve issues such as defence motions to prevent some material from being used at trial.

Maranger revealed the scope of the case when he said that it’s likely that 750 citizens will have to be summoned to the courthouse to allow the selection of 12 impartial jurors. Picking the jury could take four days.

“I think there’ll be a special jury selection for this,” he said. “It’s going to be a mega panel.”

Jury selection could be held in the last week of March, he said, setting the stage for the trial to begin in April.

It is projected to last 12 to 15 weeks.

The discussions about logistics capped a full day of testimony from a woman from Montreal who gave evidence alternately in English and sometimes in French, through a translator.

As she has done often during hearings in the case, the accused mother began to sob during some of the testimony.

Her evidence is part of hearing called because the three accused are seeking to have a court order lifted that bars them from communicating with three family members in Montreal and with each other.

The family members are children of the accused mother and father and siblings of the accused 19-year-old.

A publication ban prevents the reporting of evidence at the hearing.

The lawyers agreed to continue the hearing in May, at the same time that a pre-trial meeting is held, at which the lawyers and judges will meet to discuss means to streamline and expedite the process.

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