[Hpn] HIV INFECTED MAN DRAWS FIRST DEGREE MURDER CHARGE
William Charles Tinker
Fri, 25 Feb 2005 08:47:09 -0500
Feb. 25, 2005
HIV infection draws first murder charge
BARBARA BROWN AND WADE HEMSWORTH
TORSTAR NEWS SERVICE
HAMILTON - An HIV-positive Hamilton man is charged with first-degree murder
in the deaths of two women who had been his sexual partners.
Johnson Aziga, 48, is believed to be the first person in Canada to face that
charge in an HIV-infection case.
He had originally been charged with endangering the lives of 12 women who
had been his partners.
Both of the women Aziga is accused of killing were from Toronto. One died
Dec. 7, 2003, and the other died May 19 of last year.
Their deaths have been classified as first-degree murders because they are
alleged to have resulted from sexual assaults, which automatically elevates
the offences to first-degree murders.
All the women in the case are considered to be victims of aggravated sexual
assaults because they are said not to have known they were having
unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person. Previous cases have established
that one partner cannot give true consent if the other fails to disclose an
Seven of the 13 women in the case, including the two who have died,
Aziga is accused of knowingly spreading the virus that causes AIDS by having
unprotected sex with the women between 2000 and 2003 and failing to warn
them of the risk.
Aziga, who was born in Uganda and later moved to Hamilton, separated from
his wife of 15 years in 1999.
Aziga had originally been charged with the aggravated sexual assault of 12
But one member of that group has since died, and the name of another woman
who has also died was added to the list of his alleged victims for the first
Because all are considered to be the victims of sexual assaults, none of
Aziga's 13 alleged victims may be identified by order of Ontario Court
Justice Anton Zuraw, who has been hearing the case.
Nine months have passed since the most recent death and the Crown had
contemplated but never laid murder charges until new developments raised the
stakes in the case.
Aziga appeared in court Wednesday, scheduled to set a date for his trial.
Instead, Aziga raised previously unheard-of concerns about the handling of
his case and abruptly fired Jeffrey Manishen, the veteran defence lawyer who
had been representing him for 15 months, throwing the whole matter into
The judge, frustrated by a series of delays since the charges were laid in
August 2003, has given Aziga two weeks to find a new lawyer.
"She was utterly devastated.
She was not only upset for herself but for all the other women."
Cousin of woman who died of HIV
"There are people who are dying who would like to see this matter brought to
a conclusion in the courts before their lives are brought to a conclusion,"
Zuraw told him.
The judge told Aziga to be prepared to set the date for a preliminary
inquiry when the case returns to court March 11.
The prosecution is expected to call cutting-edge scientific evidence that it
hopes will prove a distinct link between the accused and the alleged
Prosecutor Wendy Sabean told the court that, for the first time ever, the
Crown had called upon Health Canada to become a partner in the investigation
of a criminal HIV-infection case.
Preparing the case required Health Canada's national HIV and retrovirology
laboratories in Ottawa to build new facilities and to develop a specific,
peer-approved protocol for testing blood samples in cases of a criminal
"This is the first case in Canada where this has happened," she said.
Sabean told court that the Crown had to track pre-arrest samples of Aziga's
blood to do the laboratory work.
She said the case has been ready to go forward since Oct. 6.
Coincidentally, Aziga had been working before his arrest as a research
analyst with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General, which administers
the court system.
The first of the women to die had given police a deathbed statement about
her relationship with the accused.
A cousin of that woman told The Spectator shortly afterward that the woman
had learned she was HIV-positive about a year-and-a-half before her death.
She then assumed that she had been exposed to the virus by means of a
transfusion of blood.
But later a police detective called to say he was investigating the
possibility that she had been infected by her former boyfriend.
"She was utterly devastated," the cousin said.
"She was not only upset for herself but for all the other women."
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