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Ontario gives brutal killer 25 years: it didn't help that he acted as his own lawyer.

Iranian-Canadian Allen Tehrankari has been found guilty of first-degree homicide in the gruesome 2005 rape, murder and incineration of his sister-in-law.

The jury deliberated for 18 hours over three days before they found Tehrankari--who waived his right to legal council and represented himself--raped and then killed Barbara Galway in his home January 5, 2005.

At the close of the 13-week trial, Tehrankari was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years, an automatic sentence for first-degree murder in Ontario.

"Your crime was venal, callous and brutal in the extreme," said Judge Colin McKinnon after hearing the verdict. "You murdered Barbara Galway in circumstances of heightened criminal culpability.

You disposed of her body as if it were a piece of filthy garbage. "You robbed her sons of a loving mother. You betrayed the faith and trust of your devoted wife and precious child. You manipulated the goodwill of your wife's supportive family," said McKinnon.

After the verdict was read, Tehrankari said, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they are doing."

According to the Crown, the prosecutors, Tehrankari became infatuated with his sister-in-law, raped and killed her, and then set her body on fire before dumping the body in the Mer Bleue Bog outside Toronto.

The recent trial was Tehrankari's second for the murder. The first, in 2007, resulted in a mistrial after Tehrankari fired his defense team in the middle of the trial, insisting he could better represent himself, a move that Judge McKinnon advised against.

In representing himself, Tehrankari made damaging tactical errors that a trained lawyer would not have made, according to Tim Shufelt of The Ottawa Citizen, who detailed a multitude of legal blunders.

In one instance, Tehrankari demanded the jury be made aware of his past convictions for a crime spree in 1992 in which he robbed four banks, opened fire on police and bystanders and took hostages; for that crime he served eight years in prison. Tehrankari wanted to argue that his past made him a convenient suspect for police who presumed his guilt based solely on his previous record.

"If the jury hears details of your 1992 convictions, the chances of you becoming acquitted become, in my estimation, zero," McKinnon told the defendant out of hearing of the jury.

Despite the warning, Tehrankari testified to jurors about his criminal past--in which he pled guilty to 30 offences. He also repeatedly attempted to draw out testimony that analysts said was both legally inadmissible and potentially detrimental to his own defense.

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In another instance, Tehrankari asked the victim's brothers--David and Robert Pearce--their opinion of Tehrankari's behavior after Galway was found to have been murdered.

After sending the jury out of the courtroom so he could decide whether the evidence could be considered, McKinnon asked Robert to respond. Robert said Tehrankari's behavior "caused me to seriously consider that he killed my sister." That testimony, if heard by the jury, would have been so prejudicial that it alone could have caused a mistrial, McKinnon told Tehrankari.

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To make sure Tehrankari received a fair trial--given that he was representing himself--McKinnon had legal texts sent to Tehrankari's jail cell in an effort to help him learn the basics of trial procedure. He also secured for Tehrankari a set of jail privileges apparently given to no other prisoner in the history of corrections in Ontario, including two hours of daily telephone use and nine-to-five access to trial documents in a private room. Punishments for Tehrankari's alleged misconduct while in jail were also suspended so as not to hinder his preparations for court.

McKinnon also appointed an amicus curiae--an impartial lawyer tasked with helping Tehrankari.

There were many accusations that Tehrankari and Galway, whose marriage was falling apart, had romantic feelings for each other. The defendant told jurors he and Galway were "in love, but platonically."

Tehrankari testified that the two had become close after her marriage began to deteriorate; he said he was her close confidant and offered her moral support. "Many times she was basically desperate for anyone to listen to her," Tehrankari said. "All I could do is just sit there, let her on my chest, and just cry."

The day Galway disappeared, she had planned to visit her sister, Susan Pearce, and Tehrankari. But Tehrankari testified she called in the afternoon and said she was giving someone a ride to the airport and would be late. According to Tehrankari, Galway never showed up.

Tehrankari testified that two men, whom he described as "professionals," broke into his home that afternoon and sexually assaulted him at gunpoint. Tehrankari told jurors the men had warned him to stay away from Galway.

"There won't be a third time," Tehrankari said the men told him, explaining to jurors he was not allowed to elaborate on who was behind the threats.

The gunmen then told him to take the mattress from his spare bedroom outside to the family van, which his alleged attackers said they were going to "borrow," Tehrankari told the court. Police later found a mattress that was found to have blood matching Galway's DNA profile.

When Catherine Huot, the impartial attorney appointed to Tehrankari, asked the defendant why he didn't inform his wife or the police, he said his past had made him skeptical of law enforcement.

"First of all, I didn't trust police," Tehrankari said, explaining that when he was living in Iran he lost his family and left home at the age of nine. Later, "because of a disagreement with my government, was imprisoned and tortured."

While testifying in his own defense, Tehrankari was dragged from the courtroom by armed officers in front of jurors after he began yelling that Galway's estranged husband had ordered her murder for money.

Before the trial began, McKinnon determined there was no evidence connecting Patrick Galway to his wife's murder and ordered that Tehrankari not raise the husband as an alternative suspect. While McKinnon said Tehrankari's behavior was decent around jurors, he said when the jury was out of the room Tehrankari's behavior was sometimes "disrespectful to a point I have not even read of in the compendium of law."

At one point, the judge made provisions to have Tehrankari removed from the courtroom and appear via closed-caption television if he could not abide by McKinnon's rulings and control his conduct.

"My future conduct is governed by God Almighty, not by you. You are nobody," Tehrankari replied.

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"You are the most remarkable person I've ever met in a courtroom," McKinnon said. "If you were a lawyer, you'd be in irons."

Interestingly enough, Tehrankari's past discretions led to Ottawa twice declaring him a danger to the public and seeking to have him deported. But one person who spoke out in defense of Tehrankari was Galway herself. "I would beg you to lift this sentence of death by agreeing not to deport him to Iran," Galway wrote in a letter to the immigration minister in 1996. In an earlier letter, Galway described her future killer as a "kind and thoughtful individual who is anxious to better himself."
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Title Annotation:Around the globe: Diaspora
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 3, 2009
Words:1184
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