“A Toronto police officer has been found guilty of attempted murder in the 2013 shooting death of a troubled teen on an empty streetcar, an incident that sparked public outrage and street protests in the city… After six days of deliberations, the 11-member jury cleared Const. James Forcillo of the more serious charge of second-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim in July 2013” – National Post, Jan. 25th (*).
Elsewhere in this news item, we are told that “The entire encounter lasted about 50 seconds. Yatim was hit by eight out of nine bullets fired by Forcillo… The second-degree murder charge against the officer relates to the first three shots he fired, while the attempted murder charge pertains to the second volley.” Essentially speaking, the first three shots fired by the officer proved fatal, while the other six shots – fired after a pause of several seconds, when Yatim was lying on his back in the streetcar – did not.
That’s bizarre, to say the least; the fatal (first) shots were considered by the jury to be justified due to Yatims’ actions, but the final (not fatal) shots were considered unnecessary and so result in an attempted murder verdict.
This is obviously yet another one of those cases where what is legally right and what is morally right have a nasty and noisy head-on collision. Here’s how I see it:
For Constable Forcillo to be found guilty of “attempted” murder when the victim is dead, and particularly when we consider that after Yatim collapsed from the first shots, Forcillo resumed shooting at him again after a pause of several seconds, is both illogical and disturbing. To my mind, that was an execution, plain and simple. To base a decision purely on the basis of the second volley of shots not having killed Yatim, is to base a verdict purely on happenstance. If the first volley had not killed Yatim, but the second one did, would the jury have found Forcillo guilty of murder rather than attempted murder?
Remember, the first volley of shots was considered justified by the jury…
Whether it was the first or the second volley that killed Yatim, or if either volley would have killed him, what possible difference could there be to the degree of Forcillo’s guilt in the sense of what he did? The pause of several seconds between the first and second volleys indicate a deliberate attempt to ensure that Yatim died, and in my opinion, that alone should convict Forcillo of murder.
There was certainly no difference in the outcome for Sammy Yatim.
And, of course, Forcillo’s lawyer Peter Brauti has announced that he will endeavour to obtain a “stay” of the proceedings, “which happens after a finding of guilt but before a conviction is registered”. That is another load of convoluted legalese, which aims to “disentitle(s) the state to a conviction because of an abuse of process”. As Brauti puts it, “We say the abuse of process is Const. Forcillo substantially followed the police training he was given and so if the state gave him that training, they should not be entitled to a conviction in the matter”.
Yeah, right. Well if anything can get the wheels turning with regards to the overly-long and corpse-littered road leading to a review of police training, this will hopefully be it.
There are far too many self-righteous and trigger-happy cops around, and this is a prime case for a major investigation such as that which took place after the G-20 riots in Toronto.
The Police Association will use its members dues to drag this out for years, but when all is said and done, justice in my opinion can only be served if the verdict stands, and Forcillo gets a suitable period of incarceration for this deliberate and unnecessary execution of a troubled young man.
(*) – See “Toronto cop found not guilty of murdering Sammy Yatim, but is found guilty of attempted murder” here.