Aaliyah and Michelle are sisters, 20 and 18 years old, respectively. Both are in university and are doing very well in their undergraduate programs. Aaliyah plans to go to law school and Michelle wants to become an archaeologist. They live with their mother and their younger brother Tyler, age 11. Their father died in a car accident 9 years ago; the girls had been fighting in the back seat and when he turned around to tell them to stop, he accidentally drove through a red light. The car was struck by an SUV and he was killed instantly. He had a $2 million life insurance policy. The benefits were doubled to $4 million if his death was accidental. Aaliyah and Michelle’s mother was the sole beneficiary.
After their dad died, Aaliyah and Michelle’s mother became depressed and began drinking more and more heavily. She is now a full-blown alcoholic. She was also addicted to sleeping pills, which had been prescribed to her after her husband died.
When she is drunk, which is almost every night, she is verbally and physically abusive to her children, whom she blames for their father’s death.
Aaliyah and Michelle desperately wanted to move out of the house to escape the abuse, but they did not want to leave Tyler alone with their mother and they did not have enough money to support themselves.
Aaliyah and Michelle talked about reporting the abuse to the police, or to the Children’s Aid Society, but they were scared of what would happen to Tyler. They were afraid he would be apprehended and put into a foster home. A neighbour once called the police after overhearing their mother threatening to hit them. When the police came their mother said that she had been breaking up a fight between her daughters. The police believed her and left. After the police left, their mother told Aaliyah and Michelle that if the police came by again and she discovered that they had anything to do with it, she would cut them off financially.
One night, after a particularly awful incident with their mother, Michelle said to Aaliyah, “I wish she would just die.” Aaliyah replied, “Wouldn’t that be great! We’d get dad’s money and we could raise Tyler together.” Michelle said, “It would have to be like an accident or we won’t get the inheritance.” Aaliyah responded, “No, it would just have to look like an accident.” Aaliyah and Michelle discussed ways to kill their mother to make it look like an accident. Aaliyah suggested hiring someone to kill her. Michelle suggested they could mix a cyanide pill in with her prescription medication so it would seem like a mistake at the drug store. Aaliyah suggested that they contaminate her food with botulinum toxin. Michelle and Aaliyah came up with more and more ridiculous ideas for killing their mother while making it look like an accident.
Over the next few months, Michelle and Aaliyah occasionally returned to the topic of killing their mother.
Michelle did some online research and figured out that they would need 1.5 mg of cyanide per kilogram of body weight to kill their mother. She calculated that their mother weighed approximately 70 kg so they needed 105mg of cyanide. She also found out that botulinum toxin is used for botox injections.
The abuse continued and became more severe over time. One night, Michelle and Aaliyah agreed they had to kill their mother to put an end to the abuse. They decided put botulinum toxin in some of the food in the fridge, knowing that she would die if/when she ingested the contaminated food.
Michelle contacted her friend, Dani Bowdling, about getting botulinum toxin. Dani’s father was a plastic surgeon and she worked as a part-time receptionist in the office. Michelle and Dani discussed this by text message. Michelle agreed to pay Dani $200 for 2 vials of botulinum toxin. Dani wrote “r u going to give yourself botox? That’s crazy.” Michelle responded, “don’t ask - u don’t want to know”. Michelle knew that botulinum toxin was lethal if consumed. She asked “u ok? u aren’t going to hurt yourself with this?” Michelle responded “not me.” Dani responded, “that’s all I need to know.”
The next day, Dani texted Michelle and said “Success! Meet 2nite for swap.” Michelle met up with Dani. Dani gave her 2 vials of botulinum toxin that she had stolen from her father’s office. Michelle gave her $200 as promised. Michelle asked Dani what the toxin tastes like. Dani said, “I don’t know, why?” Michelle responded, “forget I asked.”
Aaliyah and Michelle wanted to make sure that Tyler did not accidentally consume the toxin. One night, Michelle put the toxin it in a carton of cranberry juice in the fridge that was almost empty. Michelle knew that their mother drank cranberry juice every morning for breakfast. Tyler did not like cranberry juice so they were confident that he would not consume the toxin.
Later that night, Aaliyah had a change of heart. She told Michelle that she did not want to go through with the plan. She begged Michelle to dump out the cranberry juice. Michelle refused, reminding Aaliyah that they would be much better off when it was over and assuring her they would not get caught. Aaliyah tried to dump out the cranberry juice herself but Michelle physically stopped her. Michelle also threatened to poison Aaliyah as well if she interfered in the plot. Eventually, Aaliyah left the house and went to stay at a friend’s house for the night. As she left, Aaliyah said, “This is all on you. You will regret this if you kill her.”
Michelle put the contaminated cranberry juice back in the fridge. Everything went according to her plan. Their mother drank the contaminated cranberry juice the next morning. Within 4 hours, she started experiencing paralysis. After 8 hours, her respiratory muscles stopped functioning. Aaliyah, Michelle and Tyler were all at school when their mother started having symptoms. They discovered her when they got home from school. She was struggling to breath at the time. Aaliyah called 911. She was panicked and crying. She did not tell the 911 operator or the ambulance attendant what was wrong with her mother. Aaliyah did not tell them that her mother had ingested botulinum toxin. Their mother was transported to hospital where she died 12 hours later. The doctors did everything to try to save her.
A post-mortem examination was conducted and the pathologist concluded that she died from botulism. The police were suspicious of level of toxin in her system. The director of public health had never seen such high levels in cases of accidental food poisoning.
The police launched an investigation. During the investigation, they police intercepted Michelle and Aaliyah’s text messages. They intercepted a text message from Dani to Michelle that said “what have u done? The cops will figure this out.” Michelle responded, “don’t worry”. Dani responded “what r u talking about? U sucked me into this mess. Don’t text me ever again.”
The police arrested Michelle and seized her cell phone. They discovered the earlier text messages between Michelle and Dani.
Aaliyah and Michelle have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first degree murder in the death of their mother. Dani has also been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and first degree murder (on the theory that she was a party to death).
You are the judge at the trial. Write a judgment explaining whether Aaliyah, Michelle and Dani should be convicted of the offences charged, or of lesser offence(s), or should be acquitted.
Your answer may be different for each defendant. You should be sure to discuss all relevant points of law, including case law and Criminal Code provisions outlining the elements of the offences in question, and apply them to the facts of this case. You do not need to repeat the Code provisions for each defendant (if they are the same). Where facts are in dispute, or unclear, consider all possibilities and explain what facts you find to be true. If the state of the law is unclear, undecided, or if there are important dissenting opinions, discuss. Be sure to consider the positions that the Crown and defence would advance, and identify and address their relative strengths and weaknesses. Your judgment should make it clear which arguments you accept, which arguments you reject and why.
The question belongs to Law and discusses about discusses about trial of two daughters killing their mother.
Word Count: 1887
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