In a dramatic new development, Cindy Ali is set to face her second trial in Toronto this week, around ten years after she was found guilty of first-degree murder in the tragic death of her severely disabled 16-year-old daughter, Cynara.
Cynara’s untimely demise occurred under mysterious circumstances in her Scarborough, Ont. townhouse on February 19, 2011. It was a dire morning when a call was made to the 911 emergency service by Ali, disclosing that two intruders broke into her residence and her daughter, living with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, had stopped breathing. Upon arrival, emergency services found Cindy Ali and her lifeless daughter in their home; Ali with visible injuries appeared to be conscious albeit unresponsive.
The subsequent day, Cynara gave in to her injuries in the hospital. Five years later, Ali found herself the defendant in a trial where the prosecution alleged she had concocted the burglary story as a smokescreen for her role in Cynara’s death. On the other hand, the defence upheld Ali’s version of the events, citing a neighbor’s account of sighting two men in the residential complex shortly after the distress call. They maintained Ali was innocent and her daughter’s demise was more likely related to complications from a seizure.
The jury, assigned solely to ascertain the credibility of the burglary narrative, found Ali guilty of first-degree murder after ten hours of deliberation. This verdict carried an automatic life sentence. However, the conviction left many questioning its validity, including veteran defence attorney James Lockyer who, in a 2020 appeal, argued that the jurors were misdirected. The appeal saw success, and Ali, who had served four years in prison, was set free on bail in 2020 amid the possibility of a new trial.
The proceedings recommenced this Monday at Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, with James Lockyer and partner Jessica Zita once again representing Ali, and the Crown setting forth its submissions.
As the subsequent day arrived, the proceedings moved forward with the Crown presenting its case. Two audio recordings from Ali’s panic-driven 911 call were played back in the courtroom. As the calls echoed within the court walls, Ali was visibly emotional, seen wiping away tears. While the dialogue was mostly indistinguishable, the responders’ attempt to gather information about the situation was noted.
The first to bear witness for the Crown was the initial responder at the scene, a firefighter from Toronto. His account detailed the discovery of an unresponsive Cynara on the sofa covered with a tea towel spread across her throat, while Ali was being assessed.
The firefighter confessed sensing that something was amiss with the teenager, and started resuscitation procedures. His attempt proved successful as Cynara’s vital signs came back, albeit only briefly—a heartrending episode he described as one that felt like “forever.”
Defence lawyer James Lockyer cross-examined the witness, focusing on a piece of evidence that was crucial to Ali’s first trial: the lack of footprints on the steps of the house, questioning the firefighter’s claim of not having observed any prints.
Further questioning probed into the possibility of the responder developing a bias against Ali and whether he held a “vested interest” in the outcome of the trial. The firefighter denied having any such interests, save for a “vested interest in justice”. The case was crucial to him only because he had resuscitated Cynara.
As the day wrapped up, Ali’s supporters, grateful for her second shot at justice expressed their relief. The trial is set to continue with further submission of evidence from the Crown, featuring a detective from Toronto police and presentation of initial statement videos.