About 30 people in a hushed Yellowknife courtroom heard details for the first time of the last few minutes of a cab driver’s life early one morning in the fall of 2018.
Much of the Crown’s case was presented during a bail hearing for one of the men charged with second-degree murder in the death of veteran cab driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali.
However, none of the case can be repeated under a publication ban ordered by the court.
During the two-hour hearing in Supreme Court for James Schiller, the Crown presented evidence and offered theories regarding what led the cab driver to be killed – an unusual situation in a bail hearing, which caused Justice Andrew Mahar to address the public gallery.
“This is one of the rare times that we, in a significant way, get into the evidence … we would typically not be talking about the evidence to such a degree,” the judge said.
“It is critically important that none of the evidence heard here today be reported … discussed or published in any way. Publication can be as simple as disclosing the facts [on social media].
“I’m trusting you all … that none of this information make its way outside this courtroom.”
In court were about a dozen members of the local cab driver community, many of whom had been at previous court dates for Schiller, 49, or his son Elias, 18.
There were also a handful of reporters and several court observers and other members of the public.
After hearing Schiller explain why he should be released on strict conditions – and listening to the Crown argue why bail should not be granted – Mahar announced he would reserve his decision for three weeks, until March 20 at 10am.
“This is not something I can decide now,” he said.
The publication ban is to protect the Crown’s case, and also to make sure both of those accused receive a fair trial, said the judge.
These types of bans are common in bail hearings and other pre-trial appearances by accused in criminal proceedings.
What was uncommon in this case was the volume of evidence revealed and the amount of debate it generated between the Crown and defence.
As was previously reported, Ali was pronounced dead shortly after being found unconscious in the back seat of his cab outside Stanton Territorial Hospital in the early morning of November 19.
Earlier this week, dates were set for the Schillers to appear at a preliminary hearing on May 1. At that time, much of the information court heard on Wednesday will be tested and a determination will be made whether to proceed to trial.
Both men have been held at North Slave Correctional Complex since their arrests. There is a no-contact order between the two.
The death of the beloved cabbie, known as “Uncle Ahmed” to fellow drivers, prompted the city’s taxi industry to push for improved driver safety.
On December 10, an unprecedented procession of approximately 90 taxi cabs – flying black ribbons – took place along Franklin Avenue.
The drivers, accompanied by a police escort, said their parade was both a show of respect to Ali and served to underscore the need for greater protection.