A strange murder trial which tested the very limits of the Canadian judicial system ended when a Toronto woman who represented herself was found guilty of murdering her husband. 41-year-old Xiu Jin Teng was silent as a jury found her guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her husband, Dong Huang. According to evidence presented during the trial, Teng strangled her husband in February, 2012. She then hid his body in a closet in their basement Scarborough apartment after dousing the body with bleach and wrapping it in plastic. The body was discovered by their landlord before she had a chance to dispose of it using items purchased from Canadian Tire.
While Crown prosecutor Joshua Levy maintained that the crime was motivated by the $2,000,000 insurance policy she had on her husband's life, Teng emphatically denied the charge and questioned every aspect of the evidence presented in court. Though the trial had originally been scheduled to begin in September 2016, repeated delays caused by her frequent conflicts with her various attorneys, almost all of whom she fired, eventually led to her representing herself in court. Before the trial began, she attempted to have the murder charge stayed due to unreasonable delay, citing a recent Supreme Court decision setting a 3o-month time limit from the time of arrest to the trial's conclusion. This legal argument was thrown out by the court after Crown Prosecutor Robert Fried pointed out the delays were of her own making due to her repeatedly changing lawyers. “The only thing that is unreasonable has been the conduct of Ms. Teng and her attempt to use her Charter right as a sword, not a shield,” said Crown prosecutor Robert Fried.
During the course of the bizarre trial, Teng repeatedly accused the judge and prosecutors of "illegal" behaviour and made frequent claims that she was being denied proper representation. She also engaged in numerous outbursts which led the judge to order her removal from the courtroom and placing her in a room with a video link where she could watch the trial without objecting. On one occasion, she burst out, "“You are wrong! You are wrong! You do everything illegally in this courtroom. You are an illegal judge.” On other occasions, she engaged in sarcastic applause, pretended to nap, and held up objects to block her view of the judge she referred to as "Your Majesty." She also refused to call witnesses and openly flouted the judge's authority.
Teng has complained about being unable to see her daughter who has returned to China and is in the custody of her husband's family. She blames the lengthy trial for this custody decision and insists that she would have been reunited with her daughter had it not been for the court. When informing the judge that she was planning to apply for a mistrial, the judge responded, "“Ms. Teng that is enough. It is hard to describe the number of things you have raised that have prevented this trial from proceeding in an orderly fashion. We are continuing with your jury address . . . . I am done playing games with you, Ms. Teng. I’m finished.”
While Ms. Teng is expected to file an appeal, she likely faces life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.