Tuesday, January 05, 2016
Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged
That seems to be the theme of closing arguments defence counsel Peter Brauti is delivering in the trial of Toronto cop James Forcillo charged with the 2nd degree murder of Sammy Yatim aboard a TTC streetcar.
Give him his due, lawyer Brauti is not playing with a very strong hand. He can tell the jury all the predictable lines about 'heat of the moment' and 'imminent threat' but there's video, a lot of video evidence, showing the leisurely execution of Yatim by Jimmy Forcillo.
Even had Forcillo's position been plausible - that Sammy Yatim, having never left the aisle of the streeetcar, having never so much as set one foot in the stairwell of the streetcar, represented an imminent threat to the life of not just the shooter but the gaggle of cops at his side some 15 feet away from Yatim and, hence, it was a lawful exercise of force he can't change the fact that the video shows Yatim went down, collapsed to the floor of the streetcar, with the first shot.
Yatim was down with the first shot. He never got up again. He was no longer a threat to anyone after the first shot. Yet Forcillo fired a salvo of three rounds into Yatim, the first shot and two more after the kid was down. Then Forcillo paused for five seconds before he opened up again on the still prone body of his victim, emptying the remaining six rounds in his pistol, eight of his nine rounds striking Sammy Yatim.
Ordinarily eight hits for nine rounds is a pretty awesome result only, in this case, at least seven of those eight hits were on a stationary target and they were fired at what, Forcillo claims, was a short enough range that he was in imminent danger from a kid with a small knife.
Brauti is telling the jurors not to get lost in the detail but to look at the big picture. What he's really asking them is to ignore all the inescapable evidence that shows this cop murdered that young man. He doesn't want the jury to judge his client's guilt. He wants them not to judge Forcillo at all because, after all, they're not cops and they weren't there.