Friday, April 15, 2016

Two Trials in Toronto:On Law Enforcement and Due Process; Sammy Yatim and James Forcillo.

Two trials in Toronto. One finished some months ago. The other only just. One ended in a Guilty verdict. The other in a Not-Guilty one.  Both verdicts of both have made people very upset. One has upset people who hold a great deal of power; the other, people who hold a great deal less power. Some are so upset, they want to see the whole system changed. 

I don’t care very much about media circuses (though compared to high profile US trials, these ain’t nuthin’), but I do care very deeply about due process – as far as rights go, I’d argue it’s just about the most important one. The one that allows all the others. And during emotional cases like these, it’s at its most fragile.

The first trial was about a cop who shot a kid. That sounds bad, but it gets to the heart of the matter. Use “Police Officer opened fire on a knife-wielding teenager” if you prefer. The whole thing was caught on Youtube, a lot of people thought the cop didn’t need to shoot (nine times as it were), there was a trial, and the jury agreed. Officer James Forcillo was found guilty.

Having never confronted a knife wielder myself, I’m in no position to judge how someone else should handle the situation. But, like most Canadians, I’m appalled by gun violence, and when such stories come out I think it’s entirely fair to ask “was there no other way”?  Alas, a lot of the time isn’t. Sometimes though, there is. That’s what inquiries are for, and when enough questions are raised, trials.

Officer Forcillo had his day in court. He made his case, he told his side of the story. The jury heard the evidence, deliberated, and found that yes, he had used undue force. They found him guilty. Some people are upset about this (just as many people would have been upset if the trial had gone the other way) – they think it sends a disturbing message to police, that it punishes them for doing their jobs. Nothing of the kind. The message it sends is that they too will be held accountable for their actions, and that nobody is above the law.

But everybody gets their day in court.

Which brings me to the next trial. . .   

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