Deliberations start in trial of mother accused of killing disabled daughter
The fate of a Toronto mother accused of murdering her daughter, then staging a home invasion to cover it up, is now in the hands of a jury.
Cindy Ali, 45, sat with her head resting on her hands as Justice Todd Ducharme gave his final instructions to the jury Saturday morning. He released the jurors for deliberations just before 11:30 a.m.
It was about that time on Feb. 19, 2011 when a frantic Ali called 911, saying someone had broken into her home and her "baby" was not breathing.
Her "baby" was 16 years old, Ali told the dispatcher, and suffered from cerebral palsy.
Over the month-long trial, the jury heard that daughter Cynara Ali could not speak or eat, that she was fed mostly through a bottle and that, occasionally, she suffered from seizures.
An autopsy failed to produce a conclusive cause of death after Cynara was taken off life support at the Hospital for Sick Children. A pathologist who testified for the Crown said there was a possibility Cynara was suffocated, while a pathologist who was called by the defence said the teen may have suffered a seizure.
Cindy Ali testified in her own defence that her daughter was known to suffer seizures when she was around strange people.
Court heard that Cynara's blood and saliva were found on a pillow, which emergency crews found resting on her face as her body lay on a couch in the family's living room.
Ali testified that she saw that same pillow in the hands of one of the home invaders, who was seemingly standing guard over her daughter while Ali was led around the home by the other intruder.
The men, she testified, had forced their way into the home demanding a mysterious "package."
The ordeal ended, she said, when one of the men declared they must have gotten "the wrong house" and the pair took off.
Three weeks later, Ali's husband, Allan, presented police with a hand-written letter purportedly written by the home invaders, which explained that they had been sent to the home by "the boss," and that they had gotten "the wrong house."
The letter also seemed to explain why no footprints were left in the house, despite snow falling outside, saying the men had covers on their shoes.
Ali’s defence lawyer said there is no evidence that his client wrote the letter.
"There is no evidence from which you can draw the inference that Cindy Ali wrote this letter. Any reasonable, intelligent person can conclude that this letter is not the benefit of Cindy Ali. It does her no good whatsoever," defence lawyer Christopher Hicks told the jury Friday in his closing address.
"The only reasonable inference to be drawn from the letter in our submission is that one misguided person, exercising very bad judgment, who was ill-advised and not terribly intelligent, wanted to help Cindy Ali and took this desperate, foolish step."
Crown attorney Rosemarie Juginovic said the letter "makes a completely unbelievable story even less believable."
"You can be sure that Cindy Ali suffocated her daughter, Cynara Ali, with a pillow. You can be sure that in placing a pillow over her defenceless and disabled daughter's face, she had the intent to kill. And you can be sure that she formulated her plan — the home invasion story — before killing her daughter Cynara," Juginovic said.
"You can be sure that it was Cindy Ali who suffocated her daughter by a pillow because you can be sure that the home invasion is a story. And by story, ladies and gentlemen, I mean a lie, a work of fiction, designed by Cindy Ali to cover up the fact that she killed Cynara..Common sense should tell all of you that this story is just simply ridiculous."
The defence responded to the allegations that Ali killed her daughter and then staged a home invasion by saying, in part, "are you kidding?"
Cynara was "a handicapped child treasured by all as a blessing, a gift, not a burden," Hicks said. "On all the evidence we have heard in this trial, Cindy Ali and her family were in a sweet spot in early 2011...The Ali family was devout and deeply rooted in their church. Life was good. There was no motive for Cindy Ali to harm her daughter Cynara."
Calling Ali "a truth teller" and her home invasion story "entirely conceivable," Hicks said Ali's "good character" alone ought to provide enough reasonable doubt for the jury to acquit.
Justice Ducharme instructed the jury that they may convict Ali of first-degree murder as charged, of the lesser offences of second-degree murder or manslaughter, or may find her not guilty of all charges.