Calgary

Emanuel Kahsai shouts at jury to call U.S. authorities as double murder trial gets underway

A Calgary man accused of killing his mother and her disabled housemate went on trial Monday morning but was removed from the courtroom and placed in another as a "last resort." The accused then shouted at jurors asking them to contact the FBI and U.S. Army.

Selma Alem and Julie Tran found dead in northeast home in October 2015

Emanuel Kahsai is brought into the Calgary police processing unit by Det. Mike Cavilla, left, and Det. Dave Sweet, right, after his arrest. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

A Calgary man accused of killing his mother and her disabled housemate went on trial Monday morning but was removed from the courtroom and placed in another as a "last resort," according to the judge. The accused then shouted at jurors asking them to contact the FBI and U.S. Army.

Emanuel Kahsai, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his mother, Selma Alem, and second-degree murder in the death of Julie Tran, a young disabled woman who lived in Alem's home. 

Selma Alem, left, and Julie Tran were found dead in Alem's home in October 2015. (Calgary Herald/Family photo)

After jurors were brought into the courtroom for the first time, Justice Glen Poelman told them that Kahsai had been placed in another courtroom where he could hear and see the proceedings. 

"I have had to make that arrangement to ensure there are no disruptions or interruptions," said Poelman.

The court clerk was then tasked with having Kahsai enter pleas — of guilty or not guilty — to the two charges. Poelman asked Kahsai to ready himself before he was unmuted. 

Jurors could then hear Kahsai making grunting noises before he began shouting: "Jury, if you are listening … contact the FBI, the U.S. Army."

Poelman ordered Kahsai muted again and directed pleas of not guilty to be entered on his behalf before delivering opening instructions to the jury.

The judge told the panel of 14 men and women that they had already witnessed an example of conduct which is "unusual or improper." Jurors were told not to allow Kahsai's behaviour to distract or influence them.

When addressing why Kahsai was in another courtroom, Poelman said it was necessary and that "I only do that as a last resort."

Victims' blood on Kahsai's shoes 

On Oct. 19, 2015, when Alem's friends hadn't been able to get in touch with her for three days, police were dispatched to the Coventry Hills home, where the bodies of Alem, 54, and Tran, 25, were discovered. Both had died after suffering several knife injuries to their necks, face and bodies, according to prosecutor Matt Dalidowicz's opening statement.

Missing was Alem's SUV and her son, Emanuel Kahsai, who had recently threatened to kill his mother. He was arrested later that night at an apartment in Edmonton. Alem's SUV was found just a few blocks away.

Kahsai had blood from both victims on his shoes, Tran's blood was inside the pocket of his jeans, and Alem's DNA was found on the floor mat of her truck. 

Prosecutors Todd Buziak and Dalidowicz called Alem's longtime friend Samuel Tedros as the first witness. Tedros told the jury he last spoke with Alem three days before her body was found. 

When Kahsai was given the chance to cross-examine Tedros, he began shouting again. 

"I can prove my innocence," said Kahsai before the audio feed was once again disabled. 

Jurors have also been told not to speculate or read into why Kahsai does not have a lawyer. The trial is expected to take up to nine weeks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter.

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