Top court dismisses Forcillo’s appeal
Decision upholds rare, unusual conviction of former police officer for shooting death of Sammy Yatim THESTAR. COM/ GTA
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.