Burnaby man loses appeal of murder conviction

A Burnaby man has lost his appeal of his 2012 conviction for second-degree murder of a man on the front doorsteps of his home.

Yacine Zouaoui, who was 19 at the time of the offence, was convicted of killing 43-year-old Zsolt Csikos on March 26, 2011 by stabbing him in the back with a sword.

Zouaoui's father was Algerian and his mother is Hungarian. After Zouaoui's father died in 2009 he suffered from depression and began using drugs and alcohol, according to the reasons for judgment by B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Kathryn Neilson.

The Zouaoui and Csikos families lived a few blocks away from each other in the Metrotown area. By 2010 there were strained relations between the two families due to accusations Zouaoui had stolen money from a relative of Csikos, who was also Hungarian.

Zouaoui claimed Csikos and his family made racial slurs and vulgar gestures at him and his family and that he was terrified of Csikos in the days leading up to the stabbing.

On the day of the stabbing, Zouaoui consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana. He claimed as he was going to walk past the Csikos home in the 6500-block of Burlington Avenue, he took his sword with its sharpened 17-inch blade along  for protection. He concealed it in his pant leg. He agreed that he could have taken other routes that avoided the Csikos home, Neilson noted.

He stopped for a cigarette outside a corner store next to the Csikos home. While there, Csikos and his wife drove up and got out of their car. Zouaoui testified that as they walked toward the building, Csikos said "there's that f---ing Arab" and directed a vulgar gesture at him.

Zouaoui took this to be a slur against his parentage and late father and decided to confront him. The couple walked up their front steps with their backs to him. Zouaoui claims when Csikos reached into his pocket for his keys, he thought he was going for a weapon. As he unlocked the door, Zouaoui stabbed him in the lower back and fled.

Two eyewitnesses testified he had drawn the sword before he followed the couple up the stairs, Neilson said. Emergency crews arrived quickly but Csikos became unresponsive in the ambulance and died of internal bleeding.

Zouaoui hid the sword under his jacket and ran to Metrotown mall where he left the weapon and his blood-stained jacket in a toilet stall in a men's room. He then sought advice from his uncle at a Commercial Drive coffee bar. The uncle told him to call the police and turn himself in, which he did.

In his appeal, Zouaoui's lawyer argued the trial judge should not have instructed the jury to disregard his actions after the stabbing when deciding  whether he had the necessary intent for murder. While Zouaoui pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, he was convicted of second-degree murder.

The appeal judgment noted court transcripts show Zouaoui's lawyer at the original trial agreed with the judge and Crown counsel that his conduct after the stabbing was not relevant, since it can indicate intent for both manslaughter and murder.

"Since he could not advance any positive defences, such as intoxication or provocation, the primary aim of the defence was to raise a reasonable doubt as to whether he had the requisite intent for second-degree murder," Neilson said.

But, while his appeal lawyer argued his actions after the attack reduced his culpability, Neilson disagreed.

He fled quickly, even though his being caught by the police was "a certainty" given that the victim and his family knew who he was. And he said he ran to Metrotown mall because he thought he would be safe from retaliation there.

Rather than getting rid of the sword as he ran, he hid it between his jackets and by leaving it in the toilet stall, "the intent to distance himself from these items is clear," Neilson said.

"These actions were calculated steps to avoid detection and equally consistent with manslaughter or murder."

She said it is "of interest" that when speaking with his uncle and others at the coffee bar, Zouaoui did not mention the claims he made at trial to minimize his guilt—his intoxication, his belief Csikos was drawing a weapon and that he had only been aiming for his buttocks or thigh.

"Taking responsibility for manslaughter does not necessarily indicate reduced culpability," she wrote. His failure to admit he intended to kill Csikos is just as consistent with a desire to not increase the consequences he faced.

Justices Risa Levine and Nicole Garson agreed with Neilson in dismissing the appeal unanimously.

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