HAMILTON — A Hamilton jury rendered a historic legal verdict Saturday, making Johnson Aziga the first HIV-positive man in Canada to be convicted of murder for recklessly spreading the virus that causes AIDS.
Aziga, 52, of Hamilton, was found guilty as charged of two counts of first-degree murder and 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault, as well as being convicted on one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault.
The trial, which began in October, is the first in Canada involving someone being charged with lethally infecting partners with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
The nine men and three women on the Superior Court jury started deliberations Thursday and sat for about 25 hours before arriving at their verdict around 5 p.m.
The one count of aggravated sexual assault about which the jury had a reasonable doubt concerned a victim who had difficulty in the witness box remembering the dates when she first met Aziga and had unprotected sex with him.
The woman also had unprotected sex with another Ontario man who was subsequently found to be HIV positive and who carried the same rare African strain of HIV as Aziga.
Previous cases in Canada have established that an HIV-positive person cannot be convicted of aggravated sexual assault if an alleged victim is already infected prior to having unprotected sex with the accused person.
In that situation, the person can only be convicted of attempted aggravated sexual assault.
Aziga is to be sentenced on May 7.
Assistant Crown attorney Karen Shea told the judge she expects to have victim impact statements from many of the surviving complainants and their families.
Aziga is guilty of endangering the lives of 11 women by having unprotected sex and failing to warn them that he was HIV positive, even though he had been aware of it since 1996 and was under public-health orders to do so.
Seven of the women became infected, two died of AIDS-related cancers and four were exposed but tested negative.
One women, identified only as S.B., died of AIDS-related cancers three weeks after police videotaped an interview with her about her relationship with Aziga.
In the police interview played at trial, S.B. said Aziga had never told her about his HIV infection during their summer of romance in 2000.
In common with other victims, S.B. said she would not have had sex with him had she known he was infected.
At trial, the defence had argued Aziga was depressed and ill and did not have the state of mind to deliberately endanger the lives of his sexual partners.
Aziga, a native of Uganda and a former employee of Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, has been in custody since his arrest in August 2003.