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Saturday 4 October 2008

Canada: First-ever sexual HIV transmission murder trial begins

The trial of Johnson Aziga will commence on Monday with jury selection. Around 250 Canadian citizens will be asked three HIV-specific screening questions:

  • 1. Do you have any previous knowledge of this case (or other recent cases involving criminal HIV transmission) through the newspaper, radio, television or the internet?
  • 2. Given your knowledge of this case (or other recent cases involving criminal HIV transmission), are you able to decide this case based solely on the evidence you hear in the courtroom and the judge’s directions on the law?
  • 3. Would your ability to judge the evidence in this case without bias, prejudice or partiality be affected by the fact that the individual charged is a black Canadian citizen who was born in Uganda, has HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), and the alleged victims, including the two deceased women, are white?

Mr Aziga is first person ever to be tried for murder following the death of two women from HIV-related illnesses, after they were allegedly infected with HIV following alleged unprotected sex without Mr Aziga disclosing his HIV status. He is also charged with a further eleven counts of aggravated sexual assault for allegedly having unprotected sex with eleven women without disclosing his HIV status.

The trial has been postponed at least three times due to Mr Aziga changing his legal representation. He tried to postpone the trial again earlier this week, in order to obtain the services of criminal defence lawyer Greg Leslie, but Justice Thomas Lofchik, presiding, has obviously lost patience with Mr Aziga. As a compromise, once the jury has been selected, the trial will adjourn until October 20th, to allow another lawyer new to Mr Aziga's defence team, Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, to catch up with the details of the case.

AIDS murder trial to proceed
The Hamilton Spectator
Oct 3, 2008

Jury selection will proceed as scheduled on Monday in the double-murder trial of an HIV-positive man accused of deliberately spreading the AIDS virus.

Superior Court Justice Thomas Lofchik yesterday rejected a request by Johnson Aziga, 52, to postpone the trial again so that he could be represented by criminal lawyer Greg Leslie. The lawyer has a heavy caseload and is unavailable to assist Aziga's primary counsel, Davies Bagambiire, until August 2009.

Instead, another Toronto lawyer, Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, agreed yesterday to step in and help defend Aziga. The married but separated father of three children is facing two counts of first-degree murder and 11 counts of aggravated sexual assault in connection with 11 women who were sexual partners.

About 250 citizens have been summoned to appear for jury duty. Once 12 jurors and two alternates have been selected, the case is expected to adjourn until Oct. 20 to allow Hamalengwa time to familiarize himself with the evidence.

Trial begins Monday in HIV murder case
Jordana Huber
Canwest News Service/
Saturday, October 04, 2008

TORONTO -- Jury selection begins Monday in the long-awaited trial of an Ontario man accused of fatally infecting two of his sexual partners with the virus that causes AIDS.

Johnson Aziga, 52, is the first person in Canada to be prosecuted for murder in an HIV infection case for allegedly having unprotected sex without disclosing his health status to partners.

He faces two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of two Toronto women who died in 2003 and 2004 of complications from HIV.

Aziga is also charged with 11 counts of aggravated sexual assault for allegedly endangering the lives of 11 female sexual partners.

The trial, which is scheduled to run six to eight weeks in Hamilton, will include more than 40 witnesses for the Crown, including doctors specializing in HIV, public health officials, forensic analysts and alleged victims.

A first-degree murder conviction would trigger an automatic life sentence with no eligibility of parole for 25 years. A conviction on a count of aggravated sexual assault carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

Aziga has cycled through a half-dozen lawyers since his arrest five years ago and his trial date has been scheduled five times.

On Oct. 2, lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa joined Aziga's defence as co-council to lawyer Davies Bagambiire.

"He knows he is innocent until proven guilty," said Bagambiire.

Under Canadian law, failing to disclose one's HIV-positive status before unprotected sex amounts to fraud and renders invalid any consent given by a sexual partner.

Alison Symington, a policy analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said criminal charges have been laid against eight-to-12 people living with HIV or AIDS each year since 2000, though none have been prosecuted for murder in an HIV infection case.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Oct. 20.



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