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CanadaSupreme Court to decide today on whether to hear James Forcillo’s appeal

14:30  06 december  2018
14:30  06 december  2018 Source:   thestar.com

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James Forcillo , 34, was charged last month with breaching his bail conditions after he was found at the apartment The new charges relate to Forcillo ’ s sworn affidavit filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal seeking to vary his bail conditions. He was arrested shortly before that hearing was to take place.

Supreme Court to decide today on whether to hear James Forcillo’s appeal © Michelle Siu James Forcillo was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of attempted murder in the 2013 shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim. The shooting occurred while Forcillo was on duty as a Toronto police officer.

A decision is expected today from the Supreme Court of Canada on whether it will hear the case of the former Toronto police officer who fatally shot Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013.

James Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder in Yatim’s death. He applied earlier this year to have his case heard at Canada’s highest court after the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously upheld his conviction and six-year prison sentence in May.

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James Forcillo , discusses the dismissal of an appeal of the conviction of his client in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim. Michael Lacy, Joseph Wilkinson and Bryan Badali are asking the Supreme Court to decide whether prosecutors were required to prove that the first and second rounds of

The bar to have an appeal heard at the Supreme Court of Canada is high, and the majority of cases don’t meet it. In recent years, the court has accepted only about 11 per cent of the applications it received. Among the requirements is that the case presents an issue of national importance.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Forcillo’s appeal, the legal issues raised by the case will be dissected on a national stage.

If the application is dismissed, it will mark the end of a legal saga that prompted public outrage, spawned a review of Toronto police use of force and saw the unprecedented attempted murder conviction — by a jury — of a Canadian police officer in an on-duty death.

“The public significance can’t be overlooked,” said Patrick Watson, a criminologist who teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University and researches police-involved shootings and the use of video evidence.

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The conviction of a Canadian police officer by a jury will be held in the public memory for years, Watson said, in no small part because “it showed that, yes, there is police accountability in some circumstances. That will enter into the discourse.”

Forcillo has been behind bars since November 2017, after he was arrested for violating bail conditions by moving in with his fiancée when he was supposed to be under house arrest in another location. He later pleaded guilty to perjury for lying in a court affidavit he’d filed to change his address. He was sentenced to six months in jail in addition to his six-year sentence in the Yatim case.

Toronto police confirmed to the Star this week that Forcillo submitted his resignation to the force in September. The outstanding professional misconduct charges against him in connection to the Yatim case have now been dropped.

Yatim, 18, died on July 27, 2013, after he was shot eight times by Forcillo as he stood alone on a Dundas streetcar. Immediately before the shooting, Yatim had exposed himself and wielded a small knife, sending passengers and the streetcar driver fleeing.

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Within a minute of arriving on the scene, Forcillo began firing at Yatim, shooting in two discrete volleys separated by five and a half seconds. The officer initially shot three bullets, including the fatal shot to Yatim’s heart, then fired six more as Yatim lay on the floor of the streetcar.

In 2016, a jury found Forcillo not guilty of second-degree murder in connection to the first volley of shots, but convicted him of attempted murder for the second volley, which a judge later called “unnecessary and unreasonable and excessive from the outset.”

Forcillo’s lawyers appealed the conviction to Ontario’s highest court, arguing in part that the shooting should not have been divided into two separate charges because it was one continuous event.

They also argued before the Court of Appeal that Forcillo’s six-year sentence — one year higher than the mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder with a firearm — was unconstitutional. The minimum sentence was never intended to be applied to a police officer or anyone armed by virtue of their work, his lawyers argued.

Top court denies Forcillo leave to appeal

Top court denies Forcillo leave to appeal OTTAWA - Canada's top court has refused to hear an appeal from a Toronto police officer jailed for shooting a teenager on an empty streetcar five years ago. A jury convicted Const. James Forcillo of the attempted murder of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim in 2016. The conviction related to a second volley of bullets Forcillo fired after Yatim was down and dying. Forcillo's lawyers argued the first and second volleys the officer fired were artificially divided into discrete events. They also wanted to contest his initial six-year sentence, which was a year longer than the mandatory minimum. Bystander video of the shooting sparked widespread public outrage.

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Forcillo ' s lawyers may go to Supreme Court . In dismissing Forcillo ' s sentence appeal , the ruling found that "apart from his previous good character and Forcillo had his bail revoked and was later charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice. He is scheduled to return to court on May 4 to

The Court of Appeal disagreed on both counts, calling the sentencing argument “faulty” because a police officer’s obligation to carry a gun “does not preclude their criminal misuse in excessive force scenarios.”

On the issue of the separation of the charges, the Court of Appeal found there were “obvious differences” between the circumstances when Forcillo fired the first volley of shots and when he unleashed the second, including that Yatim was hit and laying on his back when Forcillo fired the second round of shots.

In their July application to the Supreme Court, Forcillo’s lawyers argued that his case presents an opportunity to revisit the constitutionality of the mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder involving a firearm.

Lawyers Michael Lacy, Joseph Wilkinson and Bryan Badali also argued that the Crown prosecutors did not establish beyond reasonable doubt that Forcillo’s volleys of bullets were not just one continuous event.

“While the circumstances may be unique, Forcillo’s conviction raises fundamental questions about the necessary elements the Crown must prove in order to convict an accused of an attempt to commit an offence where there is no issue that the offence has been completed,” the lawyers argued.

“The case at bar raises an interesting and important point of law.”

With files from Star staff

Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis

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