A lawyer for a North Vancouver man found guilty of first-degree murder in the axe killing of a fellow drug dealer will likely be appealing his conviction.
Darcy Lawrence, lawyer for Babak Najafi-Chaghabouri, 30, said Friday an appeal is likely, based on the credibility of witnesses who testified in the trial.
In May, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies convicted Najafi-Chaghabouri of first-degree murder for killing Ronak “Ronny” Wagad with a hatchet at a remote site near the Fraser River on Feb. 23, 2009.
Davies found a second man accused in the killing — Charles Anthony Leslie, 34 — guilty of second-degree murder.
The verdict followed a lengthy trial in which both men pointed to the other as responsible for the gruesome killing.
Davies ruled both men were ultimately responsible for Wagad’s death, but Najafi-Chaghabouri was the one who wielded the hatchet for the fatal blows.
Key evidence in the trial came from Travis Winterlik, an accomplice of Najafi-Chaghabouri and Leslie, who helped lead police to Wagad’s remains and testified in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Ali Reza Alamdari, who was Najafi-Chaghabouri’s roommate in North Vancouver, testified that Najafi-Chaghabouri confessed that he’d killed Wagad, saying he had “hit the man in the head with an axe.”
Another witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, described how Najafi-Chaghabouri said he’d made Wagad kneel on the ground in front of the car before taking the hatchet to his head.
Both Alamdari and the witness who can’t be named are drug addicts whose recollection of events was questioned by Lawrence in cross-examination in the trial.
Najafi-Chaghabouri faces an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
At a sentencing hearing last week, however, Crown prosecutor David Butcher urged the judge also to sentence Najafi-Chaghabouri to 12 to 18 years on a separate charge of kidnapping Wagad.
Outside of court, Butcher said prosecutors want to make sure Najafi-Chaghabouri stays in prison, even if his murder conviction is overturned on appeal.
In court, Lawrence told the judge how Najafi-Chaghabouri grew up in a Kurdish area of Iran and later came to Canada as a refugee.Once in the Lower Mainland, however, Najafi-Chaghabouri racked up convictions for six violent criminal offences, including stabbing a man in a North Vancouver Persian restaurant. Najafi-Chaghabouri was ordered deported, but won a reprieve to stay in Canada just one week before he and Leslie kidnapped Wagad and killed him.
Prosecutors are also appealing Leslie’s conviction of second-degree murder, arguing it should have been first-degree.