Convictions upheld for 2 men involved in Calgary teen’s murder in 2013
Two of the men convicted in Lukas Strasser-Hird’s swarming death have had their appeals denied, just days after one of their counterparts was convicted of first-degree murder in the same case.
Strasser-Hird was killed in the early morning hours of Nov. 23, 2013, when he was attacked by a group of people and beaten, kicked and stabbed in an alleyway behind a nightclub in Calgary.
Five men were initially charged in Strasser-Hird’s death. Franz Cabrera and Assmar Shlah were both found guilty of second-degree murder in the young man’s death in June 2016.
In the same jury decision, Jordan Liao — charged with second-degree murder — was acquitted and Joch Pouk was found guilty of manslaughter. Pouk was also charged with second-degree murder.
Nathan Gervais, the fifth man charged in the case, who fled the country and was eventually arrested in Vietnam in February 2018, was found guilty on May 8, 2019 of first-degree murder.
Both Cabrera and Shlah were appealing their convictions on the grounds that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable, among other things.
In the two-part decision from Chief Justice Catherine Fraser and Justice Frederica Schutz, the two said they disagreed with statements that “no reasonable jury could have found that Shlah participated in the attack that led to Strasser-Hird’s death.”
WATCH: Calgary man found guilty of first-degree murder in swarming death of Lukas Strasser-Hird (May 8)
The judges stated that when looking at the evidence in its totality, “it is reasonable for this jury to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Shlah, as well as Cabrera, participated in the attack” and that both “either meant to cause Strasser-Hird’s death or meant to cause bodily harm that each knew was likely to cause death.”
“Accordingly, both appeals are dismissed,” the judges wrote in their decision.
Shlah was ordered to surrender himself to police within 48 hours of the ruling.
The two men also appealed the convictions on the grounds that the judge erred in the charge to the jury, which the justices also disagreed with.
“No reviewable error in the jury charge has been demonstrated,” they wrote. “The trial judge properly instructed this jury.”
Dissenting opinion from third judge
The decision released Tuesday included a dissenting opinion from a third judge — Justice Barbara Lea Veldhuis — who had a differing opinion of whether the men should have been granted their appeals.
Veldhuis wrote that she concluded Cabrera’s appeal should have been allowed and that a new trial should be ordered, saying that a jury, if properly instructed, couldn’t have found him to have been an aider, abettor or participant in the attack.
She also wrote that Shlah should be acquitted based on the opinion that a jury couldn’t have found him guilty of second-degree murder based on the instruction from the judge.
Both Cabrera and Shlah received automatic life sentences without parole eligibility for at least 10 years, but a judge had the discretion to increase that ineligibility.
In January 2017, Cabrera was sentenced to 15 years parole ineligibility and Shlah sentenced to 12 years. Pouk was sentenced to seven years with credit for time served, meaning he could be eligible for parole within two years.
Shlah’s lawyer, Balfour Der, said the dissenting opinion from the third judge regarding an acquittal is grounds for another appeal, but this time to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“Both myself and my client were very disappointed that the appeal was not allowed, we thought this conviction should never have occurred,” Der told Global News on Wednesday. “There appears to be open a route for us to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which is something that we will be doing.”
They now have 30 days to launch an appeal to Canada’s highest court.
Shlah, who was granted bail pending Tuesday’s appeal decision, is expected to turn himself in to police on Thursday.
Der also told Global News he would be applying for bail pending the hearing of an appeal to the Supreme Court, but it’s unclear how long that process will take.
“We feel that there are good grounds for an appeal and good grounds for him to be out on bail.”
The Strasser-Hird family said they are grateful for the support they’ve received during the court process and are hoping to be able to move forward following Tuesday’s decisions.
“We are satisfied as much as possible with the current outcomes and literally pray for a break and this can come to an end for now, so we can finally go away and rest and try to move forward,” Dale Hird, Lukas’ father said in a statement. “And most importantly, Lukas Strasser, the best son anyone could have even hoped for, can perhaps begin to rest in peace for the first time since his unwarranted demise.”
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