The Shafia Trial: Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Murder


Mohammad Shafia, his wife Tooba Mohammad Yahya, and their son Hamed Mohammad Shafia have been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder. The victims? Mohammad Shafia’s three daughters and his first wife.

How can three people be charged with two crimes for only one act that occurred in Kingston, Ontario? Read on.

What is first-degree murder?

The Criminal Code defines murder as intentionally causing someone’s death, directly or indirectly. Also, depending on the situation, seriously injuring a person who later dies from these injuries can lead to a murder charge.

First-degree murder is premeditated murder. This means the murderer planned it in advance. A person found guilty of first-degree murder is jailed for 25 years with no possibility of parole.

In the Shafia trial, the government lawyer bringing the case - called the Crown - must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the death of the four women was not an accident. The motive for the murders (the reason they were committed) can be used to help prove the intention to kill.

What is an accomplice to a crime?

Someone who helps or encourages another person to commit a crime has the same responsibility as the main criminal.

For example, someone who takes part in a crime in any way and has the intention to kill can be charged with murder, even if this person did not do the actual killing.

In the Shafia trial, the Crown was able to charge three people with murder by claiming that all of them were accomplices.

However, people who help after a murder has been committed, by hiding the murderer, for example, generally cannot be charged with murder. The same rule applies when a person helps during the crime but does not have the specific intention to kill. In these types of cases, the charges could include being an accessory after the fact and involuntary homicide. These charges involve shorter sentences.

What is conspiracy?

In legal terms, conspiracy means agreeing with someone to commit a crime. To be found guilty of conspiracy, the crime does not have to be carried out. The important thing is the agreement to commit the crime.

Also, the Crown does not have to identify all the people involved in the conspiracy. It is enough to prove that there was an agreement and a common plan.

Why is the Shafia family facing two charges?

The Crown must clearly indicate the charges and stick to them throughout the trial. In the Shafia case, the Crown looked at the evidence and brought the charges it believed were most likely to result in a finding of guilty: murder and conspiracy to commit a crime.