Canada: Acquitted in murder trial, former aspiring model is reunited with baby she gave birth to while in custody - PressFrom - Canada
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Canada Acquitted in murder trial, former aspiring model is reunited with baby she gave birth to while in custody

14:36  07 october  2019
14:36  07 october  2019 Source:   thestar.com

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Phan was reunited Saturday with the baby she gaves birth to while in custody . A jury in Newmarket has convicted a man of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Markham man, but acquitted his co-accused, a once- aspiring model who gave birth to a baby while in custody .

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a girl posing for a photo: Laurie Phan was acquitted of first-degree murder by a Newmarket jury, while her co-accused Jeff Atienza was found guilty.© Provided by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited Laurie Phan was acquitted of first-degree murder by a Newmarket jury, while her co-accused Jeff Atienza was found guilty.

A jury in Newmarket has convicted a man of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Markham man, but acquitted his co-accused, a once-aspiring model who gave birth to a baby while in custody.

Noel Williams, 27, was shot three times just outside his family’s home on Hillwood Street in Markham on Feb. 10, 2017.

The Crown’s theory was that Laurie Phan and Jeff Atienza lured Williams to an SUV on the pretense of returning his stolen cellphone. All were involved in the drug trade and Williams robbed Atienza about a month before the murder, prosecutors said.

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Phan denied having anything to do with the murder.

Atienza’s position was he was the driver of the vehicle that pulled up outside Williams’ house, but that he did not know there was going to be a shooting until shots were fired by one of his two passengers. The Crown acknowledged there might have been two different shooters.

The jury retired to begin deliberations Friday at 4 p.m. and returned to court on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. with their verdicts, Phan’s lawyer, Leora Shemesh, said Sunday.

“My client was released last night (and) got to hold her 20-month-old baby for the first time — although he didn’t recognize her and he began to cry,” Shemesh wrote in email. “It was so heartbreaking.”

Phan has another three-year-old son.

In her charge to the jury, Justice Laura Bird warned the jury about “several inconsistencies” in the testimony of several Crown witnesses, including the sister of the deceased, Marshell Williams, who testified in detail that she witnessed the shooting, when “it is agreed that she did not.”

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Williams testified that she was outside her house, and saw Phan and her brother walking toward an SUV when the shooting occurred. She denied the evidence of two witnesses who told court Williams told them she was inside the house, heard gunshots and then ran outside.

Williams also did not mention to one of the first officers on the scene that she saw Phan get into the SUV, which is what she told the jury.

“The fact that Ms. Williams has testified to something at trial which is acknowledged by everyone to be inaccurate should give you great concern about her credibility and reliability,” the judge said during her charge to the jury.

During the first part of her testimony, Williams wore a T-shirt with a photo of her dead brother on the front. After defence lawyers objected during the break, Williams returned to the stand wearing a wrap over her top.

Phan, 24, was arrested on June 5, 2017, and was denied bail twice on the apparent “strength of the Crown’s case,” Shemesh said. She noted Phan filed letters of support from correctional officers at her bail review in March this year.

Shemesh said her client is looking foward to restarting her life.

“She is clean from all drugs and took a deep breath of fresh air last night as we walked out of the courthouse.”

Phan was an aspiring model who competed in the ATV Miss Asia Toronto competition in 2013.

Atienza, 30, faces a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years. His lawyer, Craig Bottomley, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

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