Crown trying to 'criminalize' cop's judgment, Forcillo's lawyer tells jury

TORONTO -- The lawyer for a Toronto police officer on trial for killing a teen on an empty streetcar asked a jury to acquit the man, saying Tuesday that the prosecution in the case was trying to "criminalize a judgment call" made by a first responder.

See Full Article

Const. James Forcillo has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, whose death triggered outrage across the city 2 1/2 years ago.

As the trial nears its end, Forcillo's lawyer cautioned the jury that the case needs to be decided not out of sympathy for any party, but on the evidence heard at trial.

"Officer James Forcillo is not guilty of murder, attempted murder or any other criminal offence," Peter Brauti said in his closing address. "What the prosecution is really trying to do is criminalize a judgment call."

Crown prosecutors argue Forcillo's actions were not necessary or reasonable. Brauti contends the officer's actions were justified and carried out in self-defence.

"To be clear, no one likes the end result in this case," Brauti said.

"There can be no doubt that while Mr. Yatim may not have been a perfect young man, he is missed by his family. The answer in this case is not to take officer Forcillo away from his family. That is not justice."

The jury has heard that on a night in July 2013, Yatim had taken the drug ecstasy before boarding a streetcar where he pulled out a small knife, sparking a panicked mass exodus after the vehicle came to a stop.

Surveillance videos and audio played at the trial have shown that Forcillo, who at the time had been a cop for 3 1/2 years, arrived on the scene and yelled repeatedly at Yatim to drop the knife.

Yatim refused and hurled expletives at Forcillo and other officers who gathered at the scene, court has heard.

The standoff between Forcillo and Yatim -- which lasted some 50 seconds -- escalated after Yatim took a few steps back from where he had been standing at the top of the vehicle's front steps.

Forcillo warned the teen that if he took another step forward he would be shot. He has testified he believed Yatim was ready to "fight till the end" when confronted.

Forcillo said his concerns about an imminent attack appeared founded when he saw the teen jerk his knife towards him before moving forward, towards the spot where he had been standing before.

At that moment, the trial has seen that Forcillo fired three bullets at Yatim, causing the teen to crumple to the floor. After a brief pause, Forcillo fired six more bullets.

Brauti accused Crown prosecutors of trying to "cloud the big picture" in the case by engaging in a frame-by-frame microanalysis of the confrontation, along with suggestions of alternative-use-of-force options the officer could have used.

"What's important to understand is it is Mr. Yatim's outward behaviour that results in him being shot," Brauti said.

"If he obeys any one of the dozen commands given, if he puts down the knife, Mr. Yatim lives to be put on trial for criminal conduct and we would not be here today."

Brauti said Crown theories that Yatim was coming forward to surrender, in the process of putting his knife down, or that Forcillo could have used more polite language, or hurled baseballs or paintcans at the teen instead of shooting him, were all attempts to "distract" the jury.

"This case is about second guessing where an officer is allowed to draw his or her line in the sand," he said.

Brauti also noted that Forcillo had called for a sergeant with a Taser during his interaction with Yatim, and suggested that meant he didn't want to use lethal force unless it was necessary.


Latest Canada & World News

  • Parents charged after baby consumes fentanyl

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Two parents are in police custody facing several charges after their baby boy suffered a possible overdose of the powerful opioid fentanyl. Const. Jason Michalyshen said paramedics were called to a Winnipeg home last week and found the nine-month-old in critical condition. Source
  • Dennis Oland walks free after being given bail pending appeal

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    FREDERICTON - Dennis Oland held hands with his wife and children as he exited by the front door of the Fredericton courthouse Tuesday, free on bail a day after an appeal court quashed his murder conviction and ordered a new trial. Source
  • N.J. toddlers survive plunge off bridge with father

    World News Toronto Sun
    The night began with a kidnapping. At 6:55 p.m. Monday, police in Pequannock, a small town in northern New Jersey, received a call that a man had threatened to harm his family, local authorities said. He had argued with his wife, the woman told police, then drove away with their two young sons -- age 2 and 4 -- in a white SUV. Source
  • Husband-wife death squad claims 800 kills

    World News Toronto Sun
    Ace and Sheila’s mandate is simple: blow away as many junkies and drug dealers as they can. The price? $100 a pop. The terrible twosome are just two of the death squad enforcers in Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. Source
  • Restaurant firing workers who posted video about spitting in food

    World News Toronto Sun
    PHILADELPHIA - A Philadelphia fast-food restaurant says workers will be fired after a Facebook video shows them joking about having sex and spitting in customers’ food, among other unsanitary acts. But one former Checkers employee who posted the video says it was simply a publicity stunt gone wrong. Source
  • What we know about the nurse charged with 8 counts of murder

    Canada News CTV News
    A nurse in southwestern Ontario faces eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of elderly patients who were in her care over the past decade. Here is what we know, so far, about 49-year-old Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer of Woodstock, Ont. Source
  • Florida plastic surgeon mangles penis: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    One of Florida’s most incompetent -- or unlucky -- plastic surgeons is going on trial for what prosecutors called the “butchery of a human being” after he mangled a patient’s penis. Dr. Mark Schreiber has pleaded not guilty to the wiener whacking at an illegal clinic outside Miami. Source
  • Winnipeg police arrest parents after baby boy exposed to fentanyl

    Canada News CTV News
    WINNIPEG -- Two parents are in police custody facing several charges after their baby boy suffered a possible overdose of the powerful opioid fentanyl. Const. Jason Michalyshen said paramedics were called to a Winnipeg home last week and found the nine-month-old in critical condition. Source
  • Calgary mom who fatally stabbed daughter over drug cash was acting in self defence: Lawyer

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    SASKATOON — A defence lawyer has told a jury that a Calgary woman was acting in self-defence when she fatally stabbed her daughter during a fight over drug money on the side of a road near Saskatoon. Source
  • Ashes cannot be kept at home or scattered: Vatican issues new rules on Catholic cremation

    World News CBC News
    The Vatican published guidelines on Tuesday for Catholics who want to be cremated, saying their remains cannot be scattered, divvied up or kept at home, but should be stored in a sacred, church-approved place. The new instructions were released just in time for Halloween and "All Souls Day" on Nov. Source