Investigators searched charred remains of a Langley house in the 19600 block of Wakefield Drive where three bodies were found on June 13, 2020. Kia Ebrahimian was later charged with three counts of second-degree murder. (Langley Advance Times files)

Investigators searched charred remains of a Langley house in the 19600 block of Wakefield Drive where three bodies were found on June 13, 2020. Kia Ebrahimian was later charged with three counts of second-degree murder. (Langley Advance Times files)

COVID locks out public from accused killers’ court hearings

Kia Ebrahimian and Brandon Teixeira were both before a judge Monday

A Surrey Provincial Court hearing at which accused killers Kia Ebrahimian and Brandon Teixeira were to appear was closed to the public and media Monday, due to COVID-19 concerns.

The hearings for both men were to be a relatively routine matter of fixing a date for a future appearance, but there was no indication to the public that the courtroom was to be closed.

The hearings simply started behind locked doors. B.C. Sheriff Services officers said it was to be a “virtual hearing.” Both accused were expected to appear by video, as were their lawyers, but a judge and court clerks were present.

“I feel like as the public, we should be able to go in,” said a woman who had hoped to attend to see the Ebrahimian hearing. She declined to give her name, but said she knew the family before their deaths.

“I want to see his [Ebrahimian’s] face and find out why he would do something like that,” she said.

Ebrahimian has been charged with three counts of second-degree murder after the June 13 deaths of his sister Medea ‘Befrin’ Ebrahimian, his mother Tatiana Bazyar, and his mother’s common-law-husband Francesco Zangrilli.

Kia was the only survivor of a fire that destroyed the family’s Langley home. He was arrested just under a month later after the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team looked at the case. He has been in custody ever since.

READ MORE: 24-year-old man charged with triple murder in Langley

READ MORE: Notorious Surrey fugitive now in custody of Canadian authorities

Meanwhile, Teixeira had been the subject of an international manhunt for years before he was arrested in Oroville, Calif. on Dec. 1, 2019. He was returned to Canada on April 24 this year.

Teixeira is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 23, 2017 shooting of Nicholas Khabra on Crescent Road in South Surrey. He is also charged with attempted murder on the same date, apparently related to the non-fatal shooting of Khabra’s girlfriend.

He is also charged with attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and uttering threats. Those charges are linked to a June 2016 incident in which a bouncer at a bar in Surrey was stabbed multiple times, and an August 2015 incident in which two people were stabbed at a Maple Ridge pub.

The hearing on Monday was expected to be relatively routine, with lawyers arranging for future court dates, but it is unknown if any other issues were raised by lawyers or the accused before the judge.

Courts in Canada are supposed to be open and accessible to the public. This has been put under strain by the coronavirus pandemic – courts in B.C. were temporarily shut down early in the outbreak, but have since opened with limited gallery seating, more remote access by lawyers and the accused, and with enhanced cleaning and more security by B.C. Sheriff Services, including asking court visitors about their health.

The Provincial Court of B.C. released guidelines in July regarding the re-opening which include public participation:

“In order to maintain a safe physical distance in the public gallery between members of the media and public, the number of seats available will be reduced,” the guidelines say. “If counsel or a party is aware of anyone who intends to observe all or part of the proceeding, they should advise those individuals that while the court remains open to the public, seating is limited, and entry into the courtroom will not be permitted if the safe physical distancing requirements cannot be maintained.”

The government has indicated that audio access to closed courtrooms can be arranged in advance with the court clerk’s office at courthouses.

According to the Surrey court registry, Ebrahimian will be back in court on Sept. 9.

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