Calgary

Calgary murder trial derailed after accused killer fires lawyer on 1st day

An accused murderer has fired his lawyer on the first day of trial, prompting surprise in the local legal community. Faud Yasir Ali, 30, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Mustafe Mohamud Hussein, 44."

Faud Yasir Ali is charged with 2nd-degree murder in the death of Mustafe Hissein

A two-week murder trial at the Calgary Courts Centre has been delayed after the accused fired his lawyer. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

An accused murderer has fired his lawyer on the first day of his trial, prompting surprise in the legal community.

Faud Yasir Ali, 30, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Mustafe Mohamud Hussein, 44, who was taken off life support a month after being injured in what police called an "altercation."

Ali had been represented by Alain Hepner, who is one of Calgary's most high-profile defence lawyers. 

"It's not just hard getting a hold of Alain Hepner, It's hard getting rid of Alain Hepner," said Ali. "I've been trying to get a new lawyer for a long time."

'He's the best'

Hepner seemed surprised at the statement, telling the court he'd met with Ali for two hours on Sunday afternoon and was fully prepared to proceed to trial. 

Ali's comments and decision to find new counsel also caught other senior defence lawyers off-guard. They lauded Hepner.

"He's the best," said Jim Lutz, who recently represented triple murderer Douglas Garland.

The sentiment was echoed by others in the local criminal legal scene.

"Alain Hepner is one of the most respected and experienced counsel in this province, particularly in homicide matters," said veteran lawyer Don MacLeod. 

Concerns over delay

A two-week trial was supposed to begin Monday but will now have to be re-booked. 

Before she granted the adjournment, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Suzanne Bensler voiced concern that the accused might try to make a Jordan application, arguing his charges should be dropped because of unreasonable delay.

Two-week trials are now booking into February 2019. Ali, who is in custody, could argue the time between charges being laid and going to trial is a violation of his constitutional rights.

"The whole of the adjournment is on Mr Ali's shoulders," noted Bensler.

Victim removed from life-support

Ali and Hussein — both regulars at the Drop-In Centre — were hanging out together in July 2015 when they got into a fight.

The altercation left Hussein in a coma in hospital for more than a month before he was removed from life-support on Aug. 17, 2015.

Prosecutors Colin Schulhauser and Adam Drew expressed concerns over further delay and clarified for the record this adjournment was not on the Crown.

Ali said he is trying to find a new lawyer through Legal Aid. He will be back in court Sept. 23 to book a new trial date.

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