Two men accused of murdering a Yellowknife man found unconscious in his taxicab last November appeared in court on Wednesday.
James Schiller and his son, Elias, sat a few feet away from each other but rarely exchanged glances.
Both are charged with second-degree murder. The elder Schiller, 49, has been on bail since March 20, while Elias, 18, has been in custody since his arrest.
Ahmed Mahamud Ali was found unconscious in the back seat of his cab outside Stanton Territorial Hospital in the early morning of November 19.
He later passed away.
The public gallery in the small courtroom was filled with Schiller family members and friends, along with taxi drivers who knew the veteran cabbie, known as “Uncle Ahmed.”
As with James Schiller’sMarch bail hearing – where an unusually detailed amount of Crown evidence was revealed for the first time – there is a strict publication ban imposed on this multi-day preliminary hearing. The ban prevents the reporting of any allegations made by the prosecutor.
And as with the order made at the bail hearing, the judge on Wednesday morning spoke directly to the public gallery.
Publication bans are common for preliminary hearings – during which the Crown’s evidence is tested and a decision is made if a trial will proceed.
The high level of public interest in this case raises concerns over the potential contamination of a jury pool, should the case proceed to trial.
“With the evolution of technology and the means of communication … publication now has a much wider meaning and context,” Territorial Court Chief Judge Christine Gagnon said on Wednesday morning.
“So it’s not just journalists, it’s anybody who is present here. You may not share anything on Facebook or any other type of social media.”
Cabin Radio will monitor the hearing and report on Gagnon’s decision at its conclusion.
In granting James Schiller bail in March, Supreme Court Justice Andrew Mahar told the court he weighed legal tests and a previous ruling by the Supreme Court clarifying when bail should be granted.
Mahar ordered Schiller and a friend he will be living with to each sign a $5,000 surety.
Schiller will have to reside with his friend, a woman he has known for many years, and have a curfew between 10pm and 5am.
He must present himself at the door if asked to by police, to confirm he is obeying the curfew.
Schiller must seek employment and not leave the NWT, unless for medical treatment if required. He must report to a bail supervisor as required and surrender his passport, if applicable.
There can be no contact with his co-accused son.
The death of Ali late last year shocked Yellowknife residents and the local taxicab industry, prompting calls for improved driver safety measures.