Top court dis­misses For­cillo’s ap­peal

De­ci­sion up­holds rare, un­usual con­vic­tion of for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer for shoot­ing death of Sammy Ya­tim THES­TAR. COM/ GTA

StarMetro Toronto - - COVER STORY - Wendy Gillis CRIME RE­PORTER

What be­gan with eight po­lice bul­lets strik­ing a young man on a hot July night in Toronto has ended, more than five years later, with a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer be­hind bars, a rare and un­usual con­vic­tion up­held.

The Supreme Court of Canada an­nounced Thurs­day it would not hear the case of for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer James For­cillo, who was con­victed of at­tempted mur­der in the fa­tal shoot­ing of Sammy Ya­tim on a street­car in 2013.

The ap­pli­ca­tion ask­ing Canada’s high­est court to hear his ap­peal had been For­cillo’s last hope to over­turn his con­vic­tion and six-year jail sen­tence, af­ter both were unan­i­mously up­heldby On­tario’s Court of Ap­peal ear­lier this year.

The de­ci­sion­marks 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 a death oc­cur­ring while the of­fi­cer was on duty.

“It’s done,” Ya­tim’s mother, Sa­har Ba­hadi, said when reached by phone Thurs­day mo­ments af­ter the de­ci­sion was re­leased. Ba­hadi said it was a de­ci­sion she ex­pected, but was nonethe­less re­lieved to hear. “Still, noth­ing will com­pen­sate me. I lost my son, and noth­ing will bring him back to me.”

“We hope that with this de­ci­sion, Mr. For­cillo fi­nally ac­cepts his con­vic­tion and sen­tence, and re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions,” said Sammy’s fa­ther Bill Ya­tim in a state­ment.

The Supreme Court of Canada ac­cepts just a frac­tion of the cases ap­pli­cants sub­mit to be heard at the high­est level — only about 11 per cent are suc­cess­ful in this — and the court does not pro­vide rea­sons why it re­jects cases.

“At most, what one can take away from a dis­missed ap­plica- tion is the court say­ing there isn’t a sig­nif­i­cant le­gal is­sue of na­tional im­por­tance for Canada’s high­est court … to de­cide right now,” said Eu­gene Mee­han, lawyer at Supreme Ad­vo­cacy in Ot­tawa who spe­cial­izes in Supreme Court mat­ters.

Michael Lacy, one of For­cillo’s lawyers, tweeted Thurs­day that he re­spected the de­ci­sion, say­ing For­cillo “will now con­tinue to serve out his sen­tence.”

The for­mer cop­will be el­i­gi­ble for day pa­role in July, and for full pa­role as of Jan­uary 2020, ac­cord­ing to a spokesper­son for the Cor­rec­tional Ser­vice of Canada.

For­cillo has been be­hind bars since Novem­ber 2017, af­ter he was ar­rested for vi­o­lat­ing bail con­di­tions. He later pleaded guilty to per­jury for ly­ing in a court af­fi­davit he’d filed to change his ad­dress and was sen­tenced to an ad­di­tional six months.

The fi­nal­ity of For­cillo’s con­vic­tion in a shoot­ing that oc­curred while he was on duty will have a long-stand­ing im­pact, par- tic­u­larly to pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of jus­tice, said Kate Pud­dis­ter, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the Univer­sity of Guelph, who fo­cuses on po­lice ac­count­abil­ity.

“Pub­lic con­fi­dence in the po­lice and in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of jus­tice can be­come in­cred­i­bly strained when the po­lice use lethal force, and this case de­mon-


The Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion marks the con­clu­sion of a le­gal saga that spawned a re­view of Toronto po­lice use of force. The ap­pli­ca­tion had been for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer James For­cillo’s last hope to over­turn his con­vic­tion.

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