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Monday 28 January 2008

Canada: New developments in Aziga murder trial

The world's first-ever sexual HIV transmission murder trial will now take place in Hamilton, Ontario on October 6th 2008 – more than five years after Johnson Aziga's arrest.

The further delay is due to Mr Aziga taking on a new legal team, from the Toronto firms of
Davies Bagambiire, and Selwyn Pieters, after firing his previous Legal Aid-funded lawyer.

Remarkably, his legal bills will be paid by Mr Aziga's former employers, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

Full story in The Hamilton Spectator.

Ministry to pay for HIV defence

Sat 26 Jan 2008
Page: A6
Section: Local
Byline: Paul Legall
Source: The Hamilton Spectator

A Hamilton man accused of fatally infecting his sexual partners with the virus that causes AIDS will have his legal defence funded by his former employer -- the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Ministry representatives agreed to pick up Johnson Aziga's legal bills yesterday after a private meeting with his new defence team and members of Legal Aid Ontario. Legal Aid Ontario funds the majority of criminal defendants who can't afford a lawyer. But the publicly funded agency recently pulled the plug on Aziga after he fired another lawyer, Charles Spettigue, and caused another delay in his long-awaited trial.

The ministry funds about 15 cases a year under exceptional circumstances.

At the time of his arrest on Aug. 30, 2003, the native of Uganda was employed as a research and evaluation analyst with the business planning and research division of the Ministry of the Ontario General.

He faces two charges of first-degree murder in connection with two Toronto women who died of AIDS after allegedly having unprotected sex with Aziga. He also faces 13 counts of aggravated sexual assault for failing to disclose his HIV status to the Toronto women and 11 other female sexual partners. Seven of the women, including the two who died, became HIV-positive and six remain HIV-negative. He's believed to be the first person in Canada to be charged with murder in connection with AIDS-related deaths.

The Bay Street North resident has been languishing at the Hamilton-Wentworth detention centre for almost 4 1/2 years. During this period, he fired several lawyers and relied on Ontario Legal Aid to pay his legal bills. But after funding four previous defence teams, the financially strapped agency has refused to give him any more money.

His trial was rescheduled for the fifth time yesterday. Now set to begin Oct. 6, the trial is expected to last about six weeks. The Crown has subpoenaed 40 witnesses, including medical experts, for what is shaping up as a complex case.

As of yesterday, when the new funding agreement was arranged, Aziga was represented by veteran Toronto lawyers Davies Bagambiire and Selwyn Pieters. During a brief appearance before Superior Court Justice Thomas Lofchik, Aziga indicated he was content with the new defence team and new funding arrangement.

There is nothing to prevent Aziga from firing his new lawyers but Lofchik has said he'd override Aziga's wishes by appointing the lawyers as "friends of the court."

Lofchik has also made it clear the trial will go ahead, whether he has a lawyer or not.



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