Transmission of AIDS: Johnson Aziga's murder convictions overturned on appeal

Spread the love

AIDS transmission: Johnson Aziga's murder convictions overturned on appeal

Ontario's highest court reduced the charges of premeditated murder, but rejects the appeal of the 66-year-old Canadian who challenged his life prison sentence.

Johnson Aziga had been convicted of the premeditated murder of two women, but the Ontario Court of Appeal on Tuesday reversed the nature of these two charges and replaced them with two counts of manslaughter.

The two premeditated murder charges for which a first Canadian was sentenced to life for infecting women with HIV are reduced on appeal. Johnson Aziga, who was the first Canadian convicted of a similar crime in the country, was found guilty of premeditated murder during his trial.

The Court of Appeal of the #x27;Ontario downgraded the original premeditated murder charges to manslaughter on Tuesday, but upheld the punishment withheld against Johnson Aziga.

The Crown did not object.

The man stood trial in Hamilton in 2009 for infecting 7 women with the AIDS virus. Two of his victims died after his arrest in 2003. A total of 11 women had filed complaints against him at the time.

A courtroom at the Hamilton Courthouse.

The Ugandan-Canadian was sentenced in 2011 to two concurrent terms of life in prison without the right to parole for 25 years for the two counts of premeditated murder after his jury trial.

At the time, this was the first conviction of its kind in Canada.

Mr. Aziga had a legal obligation to reveal his HIV status to his sexual partners, because his doctors had warned him of the risks associated with AIDS, including the premature death of those infected.

When he learned of his HIV status in 1996, he nevertheless refused the retroviral treatments of the day for confidential reasons.

Serological tests presented in Evidence at trial had shown that he was moderately infectious from June 2000 to August 2003, when he had sex with all of the plaintiffs.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, which heard the criminal in November 2022, rules that the trial judge erred when he gave his instructions to the jurors before leaving them to their deliberations.

“The judge in effect told the jury that they could convict the defendant of premeditated murder based on his state of mind at the time of his dealings with the two victims while such a finding is legally insufficient to prove a similar offence. ”

— Ontario Court of Appeal

In other words, the magistrate should have explained to the jurors that they were not not entitled to infer that the accused intended to kill or inflict life-threatening injury on his victims by transmitting HIV to them on the sole basis that he knew of the risks associated with AIDS.

The trial judge's instructions to the jury were central to the arguments in the Court of Appeals.

However, Johnson Aziga was not virtually certain that two of the seven women he had infected would die, says the Court of Appeal.

Experts had further explained during the trial that the risk of fatal infection was too low to suggest that death was a natural and inevitable consequence of the defendant's actions.

In this sense, the use of common sense is not sufficient to support a verdict of murder, the court concludes.

Johnson Aziga defended himself this time, with the assistance of two friends of the court (amicus curiae), who are lawyers who are not part of a legal proceeding, but who give information that may enlighten the court on legal issues.

He asserted on appeal that the two murder convictions were based on outdated scientific arguments, but the Court of Appeal argues, on the contrary, that the science on HIV/AIDS was already reliable and advanced at his trial in 2009. /p>

The Court of Appeal further rejected the argument that the defense attorneys were incompetent during the hearings, because one of them was facing complaints before the Bar. for alleged indiscipline.

But Johnson Aziga has offered no evidence that these complaints had harmed the performance of his lawyers, according to the highest court in the province.

The R. c. Johnson Aziga of the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

Public and community health stakeholders had also called on the judges of the Court of Appeal to combat the misunderstandings or misconceptions about the risks associated with the transmission of AIDS.

The Court of Appeal, however, rejected their arguments explaining that the subjectivity of the defendant's state of mind was at the heart of his trial and not the objective facts of science on the risks of HIV transmission.

“Social pressures that cause an individual to be reluctant to disclose his HIV status can in no way provide a valid defense when criminal charges are brought against him for not disclosing his HIV status. »

— Ontario Court of Appeal

The province's highest court is also overturning two guilty verdicts for aggravated assault and ordering a new trial for these charges alone.

These are charges relating to the allegations of 2 of the 11 women, who claimed that the accused forced them to perform unprotected oral sex on him.

The Court of Appeal writes, however, that there was no other evidence on this subject apart from the account of the two complainants, who are the only ones among all the victims to have never had vaginal intercourse with him.

The court, however, upheld the life sentence and the dangerous offender status which he had been awarded at the time at the request of the Crown, because the crimes that the Canadian has committed remain very serious.

At his sentencing hearing, Johnson Aziga apologized to the victims he infected. He regretted not having had the wisdom to inform his partners of his HIV status.

The Ontario Court of Appeal heard Johnson Aziga's appeal over two days in November 2022.

Johnson Aziga admitted on the witness stand that he was afraid at the time that he would be even more isolated and lonely if he told them the truth, because people with HIV were treated like lepers in the 1990s.

The individual, who was 55 at the time, explained that x27;he had sunk into alcoholism and depression the day he learned of his HIV status which he compared to a death sentence.

He had also offered its condolences to the families of his two victims.

The Crown had successfully placed Aziga on the dangerous criminals register to delay any parole and to put him under surveillance to prevent him from reoffending.

Previous Article
Next Article