Murder convictions stand for Calgary men who swarmed and killed teen

Murder convictions stand for Calgary men who swarmed and killed teen

Two men who helped kill a Calgary teen in a group swarming attack will not get new trials, but a dissenting opinion from an Alberta Court of Appeal judge means they can take their case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Franz Cabrera and Assmar Shlah were found guilty of second-degree murder in 2016 and appealed their convictions.

Lukas Strasser-Hird was attacked outside a Calgary nightclub in 2013 after he told a group of men including the killers there was "no need to be racist." He was attacked out front of the nightclub before bouncers took him inside and then out the back door where an angry mob was waiting in the alley.

The appeals were filed more than a year ago, with the province's top court releasing its decision just days after Nathan Gervais was convicted of first-degree murder in the same case.

Alberta Court of Appeal Chief Justice Catherine Fraser offered a strongly written decision regarding Shlah and Cabrera's violent actions.

"When a person, on notice that a victim is defenceless and either in jeopardy of dying or, at the very least, seriously injured, following an initial wave of violence, chooses to pile on and lay on kicks to the head of that victim, along with other body blows, it cannot be said that the jury was unreasonable in inferring from this deliberate and intentional conduct that the person intended at least to cause bodily harm that the person knew was likely to result in death and was reckless as to whether death ensued or not."

Dale Hird, Strasser-Hird's father, said if Cabrera and Shlah want to take their cases to the Supreme Court, to go ahead.

"Twelve jurors, four judges have now rejected their lies to try and get away with what they did. They are 100 per cent responsible for everything that happened that night, and we are so glad their cowardly lies have caught up to them," he said in an written statement.

Gervais was to go on trial with the other men in 2016 but fled the country. He was caught in Vietnam and brought back to Canada to face a new trial in 2019.

It's likely he will also appeal his conviction. A sentencing hearing has yet to take place but he will face life behind bars with no chance of parole for 25 years. 

Justice Barb Veldhuis wrote that she would have ordered a new trial for Cabrera and acquitted Shlah.

"I conclude a properly instructed jury, acting judicially, could not find Cabrera was an aider, abettor or participant for a common unlawful purpose," wrote Veldhuis.

Cabrera's lawyer, Gavin Wolch, says he plans to take the case to the Supreme Court. It's not yet known if Shlah's lawyer will do the same.

"With a strong dissenting opinion in the court of appeal, we intend to pursue the matter further," said Wolch.

Joch Pouk was found guilty of manslaughter in Strasser-Hird's death but did not appeal his conviction. 

Shlah was handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 12 years and was granted bail pending appeal. He now has 48 hours to turn himself in.

Cabrera was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.