The mother of a woman who was shot to death in 2016 is sounding the alarm about a perceived conflict of the judge presiding over the case of Hassan Khalid — the slain woman’s boyfriend who is alleged to have instigated the entire shooting.
Sherryl Fraser’s daughter Christina Voelzing was killed in 2016 by a bullet intended for her boyfriend, Hassan Khalid. Voelzing’s former high school boyfriend Behnam Yaali pleaded guilty to manslaughter earlier this year. Court heard that Yaali and Khalid, Christina’s boyfriend at the time of her death, were fighting over Yaali’s continued contact with Voelzing. Both men were armed with guns the night Voelzing died.
Now Khalid is on trial for several gun charges related to the incident.
Ontario Court Justice Peter Doody is presiding over the judge-alone trial. His son, John Doody, though, is a lawyer with the firm representing Khalid — Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter. Partner Mark Ertel is defending Khalid.
“I am shocked and dismayed that this judge did not recuse himself from this case and that the Ministry (of the Attorney General) did not request this recusal,” Fraser wrote in a letter to Ottawa Crown Attorney Vikki Bair obtained by this newspaper.
Fraser was informed of the situation on Friday evening, at the last possible moment before the trial began on Monday.
When reached for comment in his judge’s chamber Tuesday morning, Doody told this newspaper that “it would be inappropriate for me to comment.”
Bair directed all questions about the Ottawa Crown’s handling of the issue to a ministry spokesman. The ministry also said it would be inappropriate to comment.
Doody did, however, adjourn Tuesday’s proceeding pending the publishing of this story, after being addressed in court by Bair about this story.
Fraser doesn’t question Doody’s ability to remain impartial or his ethics, but thinks that for the sake of optics, and for peace of mind that whatever finding results from this trial is without any blemish of prejudice, Doody ought to have recused himself.
“I have not been able to sleep or eat,” Fraser wrote. “All I think about is how will justice be served.”
Christina Voelzing, described by her mother as a “beautiful, gregarious and loving 24-year-old daughter” was shot on Easter Sunday 2016.
During Yaali’s court case (in which he pleaded guilty), court heard that Yaali, provoked by Khalid after hours and hours of texts and phone calls that insulted him and degraded Voelzing, showed up at her Bells Corners home with a gun. He fired into an open doorway when he saw Khalid with a gun in his hand. Khalid didn’t fire his weapon, court heard. Voelzing was hit twice by Yaali’s bullets — the wound to her neck would prove fatal.
“My family and I sat through the ordeal of a pre-trial for second-degree murder which was plea-bargained to manslaughter,” Fraser said.
“(Khalid’s) trial for me, bears greater significance because I truly believe it was (Khalid’s) instigation that resulted in (Yaali’s) actions to come to my daughter’s home to ‘deal’ with (Khalid’s) inflammatory commentaries.”
Khalid, who is also known as “Miller,” was charged with six firearms offences for allegedly possessing a loaded restricted firearm without a licence at the time of the homicide, possessing a gun obtained through crime and possessing a dangerous weapon.
It’s those gun charges for which he’s currently on trial. He has pleaded not guilty.
“As a mother, I want to ensure that there is a fair trial, that justice has been served,” Fraser wrote.
“Knowing that the judge’s son works directly for the lawyer representing (Khalid), leaves me with little confidence in the judicial process.”
Fraser was told that the Ministry of the Attorney General looked into the file and found that John Doody had no substantive involvement in the file and that Justice Doody was able to be impartial in the case. Ministry spokesman Brian Gray said, “As this matter is currently before the court, it would be inappropriate for the ministry to comment on this case.”
According to the firm’s website, John Doody began working at Bayne Sellar Ertel Carter in 2011 as a summer student. He returned the following summer and then began articling with the firm in 2013.
He was called to the bar in 2014, and has been practising criminal law at the firm since. There are nine lawyers at the firm.
Voelzing was killed in 2016. Khalid was charged with gun crimes in 2017.
“This judge may indeed be able to be impartial however the perception of impartiality may be questioned,” Fraser wrote.
Fraser believes a reasonable person would have the suspicion of conflict between the judge’s family, which includes his young lawyer son, and his duty.
According to the principles of judicial office for judges of the Ontario Court of Justice, “judges must avoid any conflict of interest, or the appearance of any conflict of interest, in the performance of their judicial duties.”
“Would the ministry (have) given the same ruling had Judge Doody’s son been employed by the Crown’s office? Would this have then resulted in (Khalid) and his lawyer questioning the perceived conflict?” Fraser wondered.
“Nothing will ever bring back my daughter Christina to me or my family, but knowing that justice was served, would certainly ease some of that pain that haunts me everyday,” Fraser wrote.
The trial, scheduled for five days, is scheduled to resume Wednesday.
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