Emanuel Kahsai v. His Majesty The King

(Alberta) (Criminal) (As of Right)


Criminal law — Trial — Appointment of amicus curiae — Role of amicus curiae — Self-represented accused — Trial fairness — Did the trial judge’s failure to appoint amicus curiae with a sufficient adversarial mandate result in a miscarriage of justice.


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At trial, the appellant was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder. The appellant had refused to retain counsel subsequent to the preliminary inquiry and was adamant that he wanted to represent himself. Two separate amicus curiae were appointed to assist the court at different times; however, he refused to co-operate with either. The appellant appealed the convictions and alleged that the perceived fairness of the proceedings had been tainted due to the trial judge’s failure to appoint a partisan amicus curiae at an early stage of proceedings, with instructions to take on the key responsibilities of defence counsel. A majority of the Court of Appeal of Alberta found that there was no trial unfairness arising from the role of the amicus curiae in this case, and dismissed the appeal. It held that the appellant made the full answer and defence he wanted to. In dissent, O’Ferrall J.A. found that there was a miscarriage of justice. He would have allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial at which the appellant would be represented by defence counsel or an amicus curiae conferred with sufficient authority to advocate on his behalf, independent of the appellant’s wishes.

Lower Court Rulings

March 28, 2018
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta

Emanuel Kahsai convicted of two counts of first degree murder.
January 13, 2022
Court of Appeal of Alberta (Calgary)

1801-0177A, 2022 ABCA 12
Appeal against convictions dismissed.