Criminal Law

McArthur guilty plea to eight murder counts 'unprecedented:' Zita

By Tony Poland, Associate Editor

Bruce McArthur’s guilty plea to eight counts of first-degree murder is an “extraordinary” circumstance, Toronto criminal lawyer Jessica Zita tells CBC News.

“It’s unprecedented. It can’t really be compared to anything we’ve seen before. When asking how this might go, it’s hard to say,” says Zita, an associate with Hicks Adams LLP. “It’s hard to look into the past and take from experience. We’re kind of in uncharted territory here.”

McArthur pleaded guilty Tuesday in the deaths of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.

The men went missing from Toronto's gay village between 2010 and 2017.

She tells the CBC she “can’t speculate as to why Mr. McArthur decided to enter a guilty plea.”

“When an accused is before the court they have two choices — to proceed to trial or to have a guilty plea,” Zita says. “Obviously based on the information before him, and the circumstance surrounding this case, he decided the best choice for him was to plead guilty.”

McArthur’s plea saved the expense of a trial that would have gone on for months, she says.

“A murder trial where there is only one body is a significant burden on public resources,” Zita tells the CBC. “This would have been more than a significant burden.”

She says the guilty plea “is obviously a showing of remorse that will be taken into account by the judge.”

While a trial may have revealed more details in the murders, in the end, society is “getting the result they would have wanted,” which is a conviction, Zita says.

She adds that from the prosecution’s view, a conviction would be the way to “begin the path to healing for the community and the families.”

McArthur will back in court on Feb. 4. At that time the judge will decide if his sentences will run consecutively or concurrently, Zita says.

“Also, the sentencing hearing is an opportunity for victims and the community to come forward and express to the court, and to society, how these offences have affected them,” she tells CBC.

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