Welcome to my Crime and Justice blog! I am a 19 year old criminal justice student at the University of Winnipeg. I advocate for prisoners' rights, human rights, equality and criminal justice/prison system reforms.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gang member testified in Cansanay murder trial

A crown witness said Thursday he saw a gun in the hands of a man accused of second-degree murder in connection to the shooting death of an innocent bystander.
Gharib Abdullah, a member of the Mad Cowz street gang, testified on Thursday that he saw Jeffrey Cansanay and a teen boy emerge from a home in the city's West End and that Cansanay was carrying what appeared to be a .22-calibre rifle.
Cansanay is on trial for allegedly killing Phil Haiart, 17, who died of a gunshot wound to the stomach after he was shot near the intersection of Sargent Avenue and Maryland Street on the night of Oct. 10, 2005.
'Now I'm trying to tell you guys the truth and you guys say I'm lying. I'm trying to tell you guys the truth.'—Gharib Abdullah
The 22-year-old said when he saw the gun he and another member of the Mad Cowz turned and fled on their bicycles.
"I seen the gun, I just turned around and left – I didn't want to stick around," Abdullah said. As many as seven shots were heard, he said.
"Shots was going everywhere — I don't know where they landed."
Abdullah testified, however, that he never saw who pulled the trigger.
"I seen the gun in [Cansanay's] hand, but I didn't see him shoot … I turned around. I didn't see who shot," he said. "I saw him holding a gun, I turned around and I heard gun shots. That's it," Abdullah said.

Drug dispute led to killing

The Crown alleges that a dispute between the Mad Cowz and associates of a rival gang over the sale of drugs out of a crackhouse at 606 McGee Street led to the shooting.
The home had been the scene of a series of violent incidents in the hours leading up to the shooting, court previously heard.
Haiart and another man were simply walking in the area of the shooting and were struck by errant bullets that police and the Crown allege were fired by Cansanay.
Abdullah said he went to the home that night to sell drugs and possibly "talk about the problem" with people inside. Along with him was Corey Amyotte, another Mad Cowz member.
The two were standing in a large parking lot across the street from the home when Cansanay — a man he knew at the time as "Jeff," — and the teen boy came outside to confront them.
Abdullah testified that he knew that there could be trouble if he was seen near the home. Either he or Amyotte was armed with a can of bear spray, he said.
"I know if I go there, there's gonna be a problem … can't just go there and sell drugs. It's not your turf," you know," Abdullah said.
Neither Abdullah nor Amyotte were injured. However Cansanay is also charged with attempted murder for allegedly trying to kill them.
Abdullah said hours after the shooting, officers came to his house holding a picture of Haiart.
"They said this guy got killed and we're gonna charge you with it because you were there," Abdullah said.
Crown Attorney Gerry Bowering questioned Abdullah on the reason for his dour demeanor while in the witness box.
His answers seemed to come reluctantly, and were often limited to a 'yes' or a 'no.'
"This is the first time, I'm nervous — put yourself in my shoes," he said. "Now I'm trying to tell you guys the truth and you guys say I'm lying. I'm trying to tell you guys the truth," Abdullah said. 

Witness said Cansanay pointed shotgun, but didn't see who shot
His answers came slowly and reluctantly, but in the end, his testimony placed a shotgun in the hands of Jeffrey Cansanay.
But Gharib Abdullah stopped short of saying Cansanay fired the shots that killed 17-year-old bystander Phil Haiart.
Abdullah said he and another man, Corey Amyotte, fled on bicycles as soon as they saw Cansanay pointing a shotgun at them outside a McGee Street crack house.
“I seen the gun and I just left, I was afraid of getting shot,” Abdullah said. “I didn’t see who shot it. It could have been someone else.”
“You’re sounding like a defence lawyer,” cracked Crown attorney Gerry Bowering.
Haiart was two weeks shy of his 18th birthday when, on Oct. 10, 2005, he suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Cansanay is on trial charged with second-degree murder.
Prosecutors allege Cansanay and a co-accused were associates of the African Mafia, a splinter gang of the Mad Cowz, with whom they were engaged in a bitter turf war. Abdullah and Amyotte were allegedly aligned with the Mad Cowz.
Abdullah testified he and Amyotte approached the crack house “to talk about the problem, why we were fighting each other and what not.”
Abdullah said he and Amyotte were in the parking lot of a nearby video store when Cansanay and a teen accused appeared at the front of the crack house. The teen accused pulled out a rifle and told Cansanay to shoot, Abdullah said.
“Shots were going everywhere,” he said. “I don’t know where they landed.”
The alleged targets escaped harm. Instead, Haiart was shot in the abdomen and another man, 25-year-old Abbas Jalloh, was shot in the arm.
Jurors heard Abdullah was convicted of contempt of court and sentenced to three years in prison in connection with his refusal to testify about the killing in 2007.
“In jail, they don’t like people who rat,” said Abdullah, who is no longer in custody. “I was scared for my safety, my family’s safety, everybody’s safety ... Put yourself in my position. If you were locked up, and you were a rat, what do you think they are going to do? Say ‘hi’ and that’s it?”
Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky accused Abdullah of lying to escape possible deportation.
“Yeah, I’m afraid to be deported,” he said. “(Police) just want me to tell the truth and I am telling the truth.”

So far in this trial, it's becoming clear to me, that the facts the Crown once thought were fairly solid, are starting to fall apart. If Abdullah cannot say for certain that Cansanay fired the gun, that is a problem for the Crown's case. Maybe Amyotte will be able to say something different, but as of now, it will be a challenging case for the jury to decide on, when the time comes. 

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