MONTREAL — A Montreal man pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in a stabbing attack that killed his unborn child and seriously injured the baby’s mother.
The surprise guilty pleas came on the second day of the murder trial of Sofiane Ghazi, 39.
In an agreed statement of facts, Ghazi admitted to stabbing his wife 19 times with a carving fork — 12 times on the left side of her stomach and seven times in the upper left thigh.
Of those, nine wounds were inflicted on the baby in the womb and observed on the newborn after his birth.
The mother was rushed to hospital and the child, who in court was referred to only as Baby Ghazi, was delivered by emergency C-section following the July 24, 2017 attack.
After the birth, the baby had a heartbeat for several minutes before succumbing to his injuries.
The boy’s cause of death was attributed to trauma caused by a sharp object “in utero”, but the accused answered affirmatively when Justice Jean-Francois Buffoni confronted him with the fact that “the death of Baby Ghazi occurred after he’d become a human being.”
In the leadup to the trial, prosecutors and defence lawyers had differed on whether the victim was legally considered a living being.
According to the Criminal Code, a child is considered a human being “when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother,” whether or not it has breathed, has independent circulation or has had its umbilical cord cut. With the guilty pleas, the defence Ghazi intended to mount will not be known.
After a first day of testimony was cut short to allow for discussions in the judge’s chambers, Buffoni announced to the jury Thursday that the Crown had reduced the charges against Ghazi, who fought tears as he pleaded guilty to the two counts.
A day earlier, Ghazi had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder in the stabbing of his estranged wife, who was 36 weeks pregnant.
The jury had been formed earlier this week and had been expected to sit for a five-week trial.
At the time of the attack, the couple had been married for 12 years and had two children — a girl and a boy — ages 7 and 4.
The children’s identities and that of their mother are protected by a court-ordered publication ban. The mother was present in court on Thursday.
The court heard Ghazi was a consumer of hard drugs and the couple was going through a difficult period. One month earlier, Ghazi was granted bail on a number of conditions, including that he follow addiction therapy and not be present at his wife’s home without her consent.
On July 23, 2017, the woman, believing Ghazi had been taking drugs, ordered him from their apartment. He refused and she called 911 which led him to leave angrily before police arrived.
Ghazi returned several hours later, still angry, and scolded her for calling the police before stabbing her repeatedly. He later surrendered to police.
The second-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence. The only issue now will be how much time must be served before being eligible for parole. The minimum by law is 10 years.