Canada: Scientific evidence challenged by Aziga’s defence

Two months after the Crown rested its case against Johnson Aziga – accused of first-degree murder due to the death of two women with whom it is alleged he recklessly infected with HIV – his defence team is rigourously questioning the scientific evidence that the Crown had said linked Mr Aziga with the seven complainants allegedly infected with HIV (an additional four complainants allege that Mr Aziga had unprotected sex without disclosing his HIV status, but they are HIV-negative).

Previously, Paul Sandstrom, Director of National HIV and Retroviral Laboratories at the Public Health Agency of Canada, had testified that Mr Aziga and the seven HIV-positive complainants shared the same HIV subtype, clade A, which is rare in Canada but endemic in Uganda, where Mr Aziga is from.

Sandstrom’s evidence was that Aziga and the women had viruses so genetically similar they would have come from a common ancestor. He said they formed a unique transmission cluster when compared to other clade A viruses in Canada and internationally.

(Source: The Canadian Press)

However, defence lawyer, Davies Bagambiire who is aware of the precedent-setting English case from 2006 which established that scientific evidence – specifically phylogenetic analysis – is not as cut and dried as other forensic tests relied upon by the criminal justice system, such as genetic fingerprinting.

The lawyer claimed police and prosecutors had “tunnel vision from the beginning to the end” of the case.

“The fact that there were other possible sources of the HIV for the women who tested positive was never even contemplated,” he said.

Bagambiire noted most of the women had met Aziga in “risky environments,” such as lower-class bars and night clubs in Hamilton and Brantford.

“The evidence is that other men could have been possible sources of the HIV,” said Bagambiire.

He pointed specifically to a Brantford man, who is the current partner of one of the HIV-positive women, and who subsequently was found to have had unprotected sex with both her and another complainant in this case.

“Some men who engaged in sexual activities with the complainants left the country without ever having been directed to take an HIV test. Some of their names are not known and their HIV status is not known,” he said.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator