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Husband convicted of murdering wife may appeal conviction

A 65-year-old Afghan-Canadian who admitted butchering his wife in the family's west Toronto apartment four years ago but claimed he didn't mean to kill, and he may appeal the trial jury's verdict of murder, his lawyer said Sunday.

Peer Khairi was convicted of second-degree murder shortly after noon, following three days of deliberations.

Defence lawyers Christopher Hicks and Anthony La Bar had urged the 11-member Superior Court jury - one juror fell sick last week - to return a manslaughter verdict, which broadly means a homicide was unintentional.

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Mr. Khairi will be sentenced Tuesday by Mr. Justice Robert Clarke.

He will automatically receive life imprisonment and spend a minimum 10 years behind bars, less the four years he has already spent in Toronto's Don Jail. But the judge can set the threshold higher than that, depending on circumstances.

None disputed that in March, 2008, Mr. Khairi stabbed his wife Randjida multiple times and that he also cut her throat.

Prosecutors insisted her death was a so-called "honour killing," stemming from the murderer's anger over the way she and the couple's six children were becoming independent and Westernized.

Earlier this year in Kingston, Ont., another Afghan-Canadian immigrant, together with his second wife and oldest son was convicted in a so-called "honour killing," in which the trio murdered three of the man's teenage daughters and his first wife.

There too, the motive was the victims' desire to break away from traditional restraints and lead independent lives, the Crown contended.

Mr. Hicks, however, argued that in this case his client was mentally unstable and had been provoked by his 53-year-old wife, who had insulted him and threatened him with a knife.

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In sum, Mr. Khairi lacked the requisite intent to commit murder when he wielded that same knife, and then a bigger one, the defence argued.

"I think we all had some hope there'd be a manslaughter conviction, and the jury was obviously thinking long and hard about that, so it was always a realistic possibility," Mr. Hicks said after the verdict, agreeing that "the facts were pretty grisly."

Mr. Khairi, a Canadian resident since 2003, took the news hard, his lawyer said.

"He had an emotional and physical reaction, he slumped and put his head down ...It's been a long struggle for him and I think he's entitled to that reaction."

As for a possible appeal, Mr. Hicks said, "I'll await my client's instructions, these are issues best decided after a little period of contemplation and rumination about the trial itself, but I think there might be some issues that have some merit."

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At The Globe and Mail since 1982, in assorted manifestations, chiefly crime reporter, foreign correspondent and member of the Editorial Board, Tim is now retired. More

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