Timeline: Shafia family murder trial

TORONTO – It’s a case that captured headlines nationwide.

Sisters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and 13-year-old Geeti Shafia, were discovered with their polygamist father’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, in the car in the Rideau Canal in June 2009.

The girls’ father, Mohammad Shafia, 58, and his second wife, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed Mohammad Shafia, 20, were charged with first-degree murder in the deaths.

On January 27, Judge Robert Maranger told the jury they could reach different verdicts for the three accused, and that the options available to them were guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty.

After 15 hours of deliberation, on January 29, 2012, the jury found the accused guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. Global News takes a look at key events that were unveiled during the infamous Rideau Canal murder trial.

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August 6, 2009 – Shafias appear in court via video

The Montreal father, mother and their son charged with the mass murder of four of their family members appear briefly via video at a Kingston courthouse with one request: that they are allowed to speak to their three surviving children without lawyers present. The judge agrees.

August 28, 2009 – Shafias to face preliminary hearings in February

Lawyer Peter Kemp, representing the elder Shafia, informs Jack Chiang, a justice of the peace that the entire month of February has been set aside for a preliminary inquiry in the case. Such inquiries are used to determine if the Crown has enough evidence to proceed to a trial. Lawyers representing all three accused also agree to set aside October 9 for a focus hearing, a date ordinarily used to address potential issues concerning evidence before a preliminary inquiry is held.

Mohammad Shafia, 58, and Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed Mohammad Shafia, 20, are charged with first-degree murder in the deaths.

February 2, 2010 – Prosecutors assemble evidence for Shafia hearing

Prosecutors attempt to show they have enough evidence to put one of the accused, Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 40, on trial in the deaths of her three daughters and her husband’s first wife.
February 10, 2010 – Wife to stand in Kingston slayings
Tooba Mohammad Yahya is committed to stand trial, likely in 2011, on four charges of first-degree murder as well as four counts of conspiracy in connection with the deaths of four female family members found in a submerged car last June 30 in the Rideau Canal.
Mohammad’s lawyer, David Crowe, acknowledges that enough evidence has been presented at a preliminary inquiry for the 40-year-old woman to go to a full trial, according to a report in the Kingston Whig-Standard.

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Tooba Mohammad Yahya walks to the holding cell at the Frontenac county courthouse in Kingston, Ont., on Monday Nov. 21, 2011.

October 13, 2011 – Jury selected for murder trial
After three days, twelve jurors and two alternates are selected for the jury for the murder trial of a Montreal couple and their adult son accused of killing members of their own family. The jury of six men and six women is chosen in a Kingston courtroom to hear the case, expected to run eight to 10 weeks.

October 20, 2011 – Trial begins
The trial for three members of the Shafia family gets underway at the courthouse in Kingston, Ontario. Prosecutors will call up to 58 witnesses, including 21 police officers. Four Montreal police officers are on the prospective witness list.
October 20, 2011 – Defendant’s sobs wrack courtroom
Tooba Mohammad Yahya fills the courtroom with her cries for minutes at a time as lawyers review evidence in the killings of her daughters. A publication ban prevents the media from reporting on the evidence presented at the preliminary hearing.
October 20, 2011 – Prosecutor outlines Crown case in ‘honour killing’ trial
Prosecutor Laurie Lacelle tells jurors that police mounted an elaborate, covert investigation that included the wiretapping of a Shafia vehicle. She says Shafia was recorded speaking to Tooba and Hamed, after the deaths but before they were arrested.
Lacelle also says the court will hear evidence about a practice in some cultures in which family honour can be tarnished by sexual misconduct or disobedience of women. In some cases, families believe they can restore their honour by killing the women who have transgressed.

October 21, 2011 – Secret tapes revealed
In the days after Mohammad Shafia’s three daughters died, he spoke privately to family members about how they had dishonoured him by consorting with boys; jurors at his murder trial were told.
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“God’s curse on them … May the devil shit on their graves,” says Shafia, in a conversation with his second wife, Tooba, and son, Hamed. The conversation was secretly recorded by police.

Prosecutor Laurie Lacelle reveals the excerpt from a wiretap during a 1½-hour opening address to the six-man, six-woman jury.
October 21, 2011 – Shafias’ lawyer grills police officer over car’s route to canal
Defence lawyers get their chance to begin cross-examining the trial’s first witness, Kingston police Constable Julia Moore, who photographed and studied the isolated area around the Rideau Canal.
October 25, 2011 – Police diver tells Shafia murder trial he was ‘perplexed’ by sunken car
The veteran police diver who recovered the bodies from a sunken car was “perplexed” that he could not determine who was driving the vehicle when it plunged into a shallow canal.

“They were all piled on top of each other almost; it was very strange,” Constable Glenn Newell testifies at the murder trial of three Montrealers accused of slaying four family members in an alleged honour killing.

“I really couldn’t determine which person would have been the driver.”

Newell says the driver’s side window was down fully, yet it did not appear anyone had tried to escape through the sizable opening. He says that, at recovery scenes, he sometimes finds the body of a driver partly out through an open window with his or her feet stuck in the steering wheel or their body entangled in the seatbelt. According to reports, none of the victims were wearing seatbelts when Newell found them, and there were only a few objects inside.

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Police aerial photo taken Oct. 17, 2009, with labels describing key locations at Kingston Mills, where the bodies of Zainab Shafia, 19, Sahar Shafia, 17, Geeti Shafia, 13, and Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, were found in a submerged car. Released exhibit from trial of Mohammad Shafia, 56 and Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 39 Hamed Shafia, 18 who are charged with four counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

October 26, 2011 – Court shown video of submerged bodies
A video of the submerged bodies is shown in court. It is the jury’s first look at the victims as they were found more than two years ago in a shallow canal.

Most of the 14-minute video shows technical aspects of the discovery, the position of the car underwater and various dents and scrapes. But there are grim moments, too.

The camera shows a thick matte of hair, the head of a victim wedged against the door pillar at the side of the car. As the camera moves along the driver’s side of the car and peers in through the open driver’s side window, stark white feet are visible. Later, the camera pans along the outside of the vehicle beside the rear passenger window, which is obscured by a blanket, a purse and a yellow plastic bag. As the camera moves around, a partially clenched hand, poking through the debris, comes into focus.
October 27, 2011 – Jury in Rideau Canal murder trial visit alleged crime scene
Jurors at the Shafia murder trial peer over the stone precipice where a car carrying four members of a Montreal family plunged into a shallow canal.
Under a special provision in law, used rarely in criminal trials, the six men and six women are ferried by bus to Kingston Mills, a tiny hamlet just north of Highway 401. More than a dozen police officers, on foot, in a boat and using a police dog, maintained tight security.
The jurors spend 45 minutes exploring the Parks Canada property where prosecutors allege the Shafia family disposed the victims.

October 27, 2011 – Searches on murder found on laptop
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Days before three teenage sisters from Montreal and their father’s first wife were found dead in a car submerged in canal locks in eastern Ontario, someone was conducting searches on the family computer for tips on murder.

A Kingston police officer testified they found searches for “documentaries on murders” and “where to commit a murder” on a laptop he used.

October 28, 2011 – Family accused of killing four in canal inconsistent in statements to police

An Ontario court hears that when three people accused of killing four family members first went to a police station, they reported just two people missing.

Barbara Webb, who works at the front desk at the police station in Kingston, tells the court that the three accused came to the station that day and Hamed told her his two sisters were missing and they were in a Nissan.

October 29, 2011- ‘I don’t know what has happened,’ father claimed

Three hours after police told Mohammad Shafia that his missing daughters were likely dead in a submerged car, he gave an officer a calm, hourlong account of the family’s actions in the previous 24 hours.

“I don’t know what has happened,” the Montreal businessman said through an interpreter, in an interview with a detective that was videotaped at the Kingston Police station on the afternoon of June 30, 2009. “We woke up in the morning, didn’t see the car, didn’t see the kids, don’t know.”

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November 1, 2011 – Officer suspected accused in Rideau Canal murder trial knew more, court hears

An Ontario jury hears that the first police officer to interview a Montreal family accused of killing four relatives almost immediately suspected they knew more than they were telling him.

The court is shown videos of police interviews with the family the day the bodies were found, and the detective is seen suggesting, especially to Hamed, that he may have witnessed something and isn’t being truthful.
This image from a Kingston police videotape shows murder suspect Mohammad Shafia being interrogated in 2009.
November 2, 2011 – Mother accused in Rideau Canal murder trial weeps before police interrogation, court hears
Tooba Mohammad Yahya, 41, weeps for minutes on end before the interrogating officer comes in the room, as she looks at pictures of her dead children, and kisses the photos. The officer who conducted the interview, brought in from the RCMP because he speaks Farsi, confronts Yahya about inconsistencies in her story and those of her husband and son.

November 3, 2011 – Family murder trial delayed after one accused becomes ill
The judge tells the jury the trial has been adjourned because of a medical emergency. It’s unclear which accused is ill or when the trial will resume.

November 4, 2011-   Shafia family murder trial could resume Tuesday 
Mohammad Shafia is taken to a hospital Wednesday evening in what was described by the trial judge as a “serious medical emergency.” Shafia was discharged from hospital Friday afternoon, allowing his trial to resume as soon as Tuesday.

“They did what they were going to do at the hospital and they’re going to discharge him this afternoon,” defence lawyer Peter Kemp said Friday morning. “I’ve talked to the Crown and we’re going to try and get the jury back in and try and get this thing rolling on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.”

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November 8, 2011 – Rideau Canal murder trial murder trial resumes with interrogation video of mother 

The trial resumes with the continuation of the video of the interrogation of Yahya, Minutes after the video started, Shafia buried his face in his hands and appeared to cry.

An image from a Kingston police department video shows murder suspect Tooba Mohammad Yahya being questioned on June 30, 2009, by Det.-Const. Geoff Dempster.
November 9, 2011 – Man accused of killing 3 daughters told police his kids were liars, jury hears

The jury watches the video of the police interrogation of Mohammad Shafia, the day after he, his wife and his son were arrested in July 2009.

He tells the interrogator his life has been ruined by the deaths of his children and Rona Amir Mohammad, whom he calls his cousin, and that his kids were pure and sinless.

But he also says his children told authorities he was beating them, and that they were all liars.

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November 14, 2011 – Shafia father accused of killing daughters caught on wiretap talking about honour 
The day before a Mohammad Shafia was charged with killing his three daughters and one of his two wives, he was caught on a wiretap saying that even if he is hoisted onto the gallows, nothing is more important than his honour.

November 15, 2011 – Man accused of killing sisters told police his mother not involved with deaths 

Hamed Mohammad Shafia told a police interrogator his mother had nothing to do with the deaths.

The jury is watching the video of Hamed’s interrogation and the police officer grills him about inconsistencies in his earlier statements.

At one point Hamed answers “no” when Det. Steve Koopman asks if he meant to get involved, but later Hamed goes back to the original story of an accident.

He does say his mom “doesn’t have anything to do with it,” and that night she was feeling unwell, had taken some pills and wasn’t conscious.

Hamed Shafia walks in to the holding cell at the Frontenac Count courthouse in Kingston, Ontario on Friday October 21, 2011.
November 18, 2011 – Brother accused of killing sisters saw them plunge into canal in car 

A private investigator testifies that the a young man accused of killing four women told him he saw them plunge into a canal in a car, but didn’t call for help.

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November 21, 2011 – Shafia murder trial hears about girl’s fear of brother  

A teenage Montreal girl who was allegedly murdered, along with two sisters and her stepmother, by her brother and parents, warned a suitor at school that her brother could not know about their friendship.

“Let me explain the rules of my friendship. First, be aware of my bro, then if (you) sometimes wanna talk, come in the library, and if my brother is around, act like complete strangers,” Zainab Shafia wrote in an email sent Feb. 16, 2008, to the young man.

Two days earlier, he had sent her a card on Valentine’s Day, expressing romantic interest.

November 22, 2011 – Home life was improving for woman allegedly killed by family, court hears

Court hears that in the days before three sisters were allegedly killed by their family, one of the girls said life in the home was improving.

A man who dated and briefly married Zainab Shafia, 19, is telling court that she often complained about her treatment at home and her lack of freedoms.

But in the days before her June 2009 death, he says she told him her dad let her get a part-time job at Harvey’s and go back to school.

November 23, 2011 – One of three sisters allegedly killed by family tried to kill herself, jury told 
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Court hears that one of three teenage sisters allegedly killed by their family told school officials she was facing physical, emotional and verbal abuse at home, and that she had taken pills to try to kill herself.

An assistant school principal testified in court that Sahar Shafia, 17, told her she was being pressured to wear a hijab, that her brother had assaulted her, and that there was an order within the family not to talk to her.

Court is hearing that Sahar told Josee Fortin she tried to kill herself because she “had enough” and “wanted to die,” and that after this suicide attempt, she didn’t receive any assistance from her family.


November 24, 2011 – Shafia girl, 13, wanted to run away, court told

Court hears that Geeti Shafia repeatedly asked teachers and child protection authorities to remove her from the family home, where she and her sisters complained of verbal, emotional and physical abuse.

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One of Sahar and Geeti’s teachers is testifying today that Sahar came to her and asked, if she moved out of the house and into an apartment, would she be able to take Geeti with her.

Fathia Boualia testified today that after Geeti found out what she had told Sahar, the 13-year-old verbally lashed out at the teacher and became “very angry.”

“She was speaking out she said, ‘You know, that lady is not nice,”‘ Boualia testified in French through an interpreter. “‘She said to Sahar not to take me along with her,’ and that made her furious. She was not happy.”


November 25, 2011 – Shafia family stopped at another body of water during deadly trip: court 

Court hears that a Montreal family who took a trip to Ontario that ended in four of them being found dead in a canal may have first stopped at another body of water.A police officer who analyzed cellphone calls testified today that the family travelled several hundred kilometres past Montreal to Grand-Remous, Que., then 165 kilometres south to Ottawa, instead of going straight there.

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November 28, 2011 – Drowned Shafia sisters, aunt showed no signs of drug or alcohol poisoning

Three sisters and a relative from Montreal found in a car underwater in Kingston, Ont., showed no signs of drugs or alcohol. A forensic pathologist says extensive toxicology tests turned up nothing untoward. Dr. Christopher Milroy does tell Ontario Superior Court that he believes the four females drowned. However, he cannot say if that occurred where they were found, or if they were unconscious before the drowning.

November 29, 2011 – Sister of drowned woman wants justice; didn’t believe ‘honour killing’ threat 

The sister of a Montreal woman drowned with three teen girls says all she wants is justice. Diba Abdaili Masoomi insisted in court today that she told the truth about phone calls she had with her older sister.

November 30, 2011 Teen convinced parents would kill her for dating, drowning trial hears 

A Montreal teenager was convinced her Muslim parents would kill her if they found out she was dating, her drowning trial heard Wednesday.

Still, Sahar Shafia, 17, took the risk because she felt so strongly about her boyfriend, Ricardo Ruano, his aunt Erma Diaz Medina testified.

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“She told me she would be a dead woman if her parents learned she was going out with Ricardo,” Medina told court.

“If her parents learned about it, they would kill her.”

This photo of Sahar Shafia and boyfriend Angel Ricardo Ruano Sanchezall was recovered from a cellphone found in the sunken car in Kingston. The phone was believed used by Sahar. This and other photos were recovered by Kingston police and released during the trial.

December 5, 2011 – Honour killings about men controlling women’s bodies, expert tells Shafia trial

So-called honour killings stem from a loss of male control over women’s bodies, and bloodshed is seen as a way to purify dishonour, an expert testified Monday as the Crown wrapped up its case against a family accused of four such killings.


December 8, 2011 –
Dad accused of murdering three daughters says they were cruel to him
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Accused Mohammad Shafia testifies that his family was very liberal, and he let his children wear and do what they wanted

Shafia is taking the stand in his own defence today, and says after the deaths he found a picture of Sahar wearing a short skirt and hugging a boy, and that made him angry.

“My children did a lot of cruelty toward me,” Shafia said through an interpreter.

He wept on the stand twice, once as he talked about finding pictures of his daughters, and once as he talked about how he forgave Zainab for marrying a Pakistani boy.

“I gave her $100 and I kiss her face,” he said.

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December 9, 2011 – Mohammad Shafia, accused of killing 3 daughters, calls honour killings ‘heinous’

Mohammad Shafia takes the stand in his own defence at his murder trial for a second day. The man accused of killing his three daughters over family honour says it’s impossible that anyone would do “such a terrible and heinous thing.”

Mohammad Shafia (left) is escorted from the holding cell at the Frontenac county courthouse in Kingston, Ontario on Thursday Dec. 8, 2011. A man accused of killing his three daughters over family hono

December 12, 2011 – Son of Montreal couple charged with killing daughters takes stand at trial

A son of a Montreal couple accused of killing their three daughters is testifying at their murder trial today – the first time he has seen his parents in more than three years.

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Tooba Yahya, 42, and her husband Mohammad Shafia, 58, are charged alongside their eldest son, Hamed, 20, with four counts of first-degree murder.

They’re accused of killing Shafia sisters, Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, along with Shafia’s other wife in a polygamous marriage.

Another son of the Shafias and brother to the girls is on the stand today in court, but cannot be named due to a publication ban.

The jury has watched a video of an interview the brother did with police hours before his parents and brother were arrested in July 2009.

He conceded to the officer that his father had hit them a few times, but he was adamant that his family couldn’t have possibly committed murder.

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December 13, 2011 – Shafia son told to make up story to protect parents, brother: Crown

The Crown at a family murder trial is suggesting that the accused told one of their surviving children to make up a story that could help absolve them of guilt.

But the Crown attorney at the Shafia family trial today suggested to a surviving son that he mixed up the family story and is now caught in contradictions on the stand.

Another son of the Shafias and brother to the girls is on the stand today under cross-examination, but cannot be named due to a publication ban.

December 14, 2011 –Shafia son has changed his story to protect family: Crown

The Crown at a family murder trial is suggesting that a surviving son’s memory is selectively improving. The Crown attorney at the Shafia family trial today suggested to the son, who can’t be named, that he has made some changes to the story he told police, and that all of his changes help his family in some way.
Rona Amir Mohammad (left) and Sahar Shafia are seen in an image recovered from Sahar's cellphone. The two were among four people found dead in a car at the bottom of a canal in Kingston, Ont., in 2009.
January 10, 2012 – Video clip creates courtroom drama at Shafia family murder trial

A courtroom in eastern Ontario was witness to dramatic legal theatre Tuesday, as a woman accused in a so-called quadruple honour killing was confronted with a video appearing to directly contradict her sworn testimony.

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January 11, 2012- Man accused of killing daughters was angry about finding condoms, wife testifies
A woman accused of killing her three daughters and her husband’s other wife says her husband was very angry about finding condoms in their 17-year-old daughter’s room.

January 12, 2012 – ‘It was all lies’: Shafia mother testifies she lied to police after her arrest

A woman accused of killing her three daughters and her husband’s other wife admitted in court today that she lied to police.

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Tooba Yahya, 42, testified that she lied in her post-arrest interrogation, saying she was under pressure and “it was all lies.”

Yahya told that officer that she was at the scene the night the four people died and heard the car splash into the water, but she said today that she made it up because she was under pressure.

She admitted under cross-examination that she is under pressure on the stand today, but says she’s not lying now.

January 16, 2012- Shafia mother accuses Crown attorney of making up stories at murder trial

Tooba Yahya turns the tables on the prosecutor in her case today.

Yahya, 42, spent part of her sixth day on the stand at the Shafia family murder trial accusing the Crown attorney of making up stories.

January 17, 2012 – Honour important to Shafia, brother testifies at family murder

Honour is very important to a man accused of killing half of his family, allegedly in a so-called honour killing, but Mohammad Shafia is no murderer, his half-brother said Tuesday.

Dr. Mohammad Anwar Yaqubi, in one of several outbursts in which he vehemently asserted his sibling is innocent, suggested it’s the police and prosecutors who should be in prison instead of Shafia and his co-accused wife and son. Wiretaps that the Crown says show Shafia’s lingering anger over his daughters’ dating habits, in which he calls them “whores,” actually exonerate Shafia because he never explicitly says he committed murder, Yaqubi said.

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January 18, 2012 – Closing arguments in Shafia family murder trial to begin Monday

All of the evidence has now been heard and, next week, the jury will start sifting through a mountain of documents and parsing complex testimony to determine their fate.

The final witness, a linguistic and Afghani cultural expert, testified Wednesday about the use of expletives in the Dari language and various roles in families from Afghanistan.

Mohammad Shafia and son Hamed Mohammed Shafia, front, are escorted by police officers into a holding cell at the Frontenac County courthouse in Kingston, Ontario on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.
January 24, 2012 – Wiretaps prove Shafia father accused of murder is innocent: lawyer says

The lawyer for a man accused of killing his three daughters and one of two wives is directing the jury to statements on wiretaps he says point toward his client’s innocence.
Closing arguments started today in the trial of three members of the Montreal-based Shafia family, who are accused of killing four female relatives over family honour.

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January 25, 2012 –Shafia son’s lawyer calls Crown’s theory at murder trial ‘preposterous’

The lawyer for a young man accused of murdering his three sisters and one of his father’s two wives says the Crown’s theory that it was a so-called honour killing is “preposterous.

January 26, 2012 – Closing arguments in the Shafia family murder trial have resumed after a bomb threat forced an evacuation at the courthouse this morning.
Crown attorney Laurie Lacelle tells the jury that each of the three accused was responsible for planning and carrying out four murders, executed to get rid of family members causing them dishonour.

January 27, 2012 – The judge at the Shafia family murder trial says the jury can find the accused guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty. 

After listening to the judge’s final instructions for more than five hours, the jury retires for the night. Full day deliberations are set to resume the next day at 10 a.m. ET.  

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January 28, 2012 – Jury starts full day deliberations

Starting fresh, the jury must look at the mountain of evidence from 58 witnesses and 165 exhibits. During the trial that last almost three months, what did the Crown and defence argue? Read the recap here.


January 29, 2012 – Jury reaches verdict 

A jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder with no chance of parole for 25 years.

January 31, 2012 – Hamed Shafia files notice to appeal 1st-degree murder convictions

The lawyer for Hamed Shafia says his client has filed notice to appeal his first-degree murder conviction in the deaths of four family
members.Patrick McCann says Hamed Shafia, 21, has taken the first step by filing an inmate’s notice to the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

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February 2, 2012: Mohammad Shafia  joins his son in filing an intention to appeal.

February 8, 2012: Tooba Yahya files an inmate notice of appeal, which is the first step toward filing a full appeal at a later date.

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