Let the games begin!
Crown Prosecutors working with the Ontario Special Investigations Unit have opted to lay Attempt Murder charges against Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo.
Forcillo currently stands charged with 2nd Degree Murder in connection with the shooting death of Sammy Yatim on July 27, 2013.
In a Postmedia News telephone interview Forcillo’s lawyer Peter Brauti indicated, “The Crown is looking for a fallback position. It’s obviously disappointing that he is being pursued with new theories of the case more than a year after the events.”
The move is somewhat perplexing.
If you were to ask any experienced Crown or Defense Attorney what the most difficult charge to prove in the Criminal Code of Canada is they would undoubtedly reply; “Attempt Murder.”
Because to convict an accused person of Attempt Murder the Crown must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused had the specific intent to kill, not simply to cause harm. In the absence of verbal indicators of an intention to kill, most cases of Attempt Murder are plea bargained down to a lesser offence.
Convicting a Police Officer of attempt murder in connection with an on duty incident is even more difficult given the nature of Police work.
One of the most important tasks I was charged with in my role of Homicide Unit Supervisor was the obligation to recommend appropriate criminal charges that could be substantiated in a Court of Law. Part of my deliberations included the need to conduct dispassionate analysis of the evidence so I could arrive at a fair and realistic conclusion regarding what charges should be laid.
Brauti makes a valid point.
Why would the Crown lay an Attempt Murder charge more than a year after the event took place?
Did investigators unearth new evidence that supports the additional charge?
In the absence of some form of new evidence the move makes very little sense.
Let’s not forget, the charge of 2nd Degree Murder suggests Forcillo had the specific intent to kill Yatim. If the Crown can’t prove Forcillo had the specific intent to kill Yatim they know they’ll never convict him of 2nd Degree Murder or Attempt Murder.
The Crown is fully aware of the fact that if they fail to prove a charge of 2nd Degree Murder the jury always has the option of convicting him of the lesser offence of Manslaughter, a much easier charge to prove.
Let the games begin!
If the Crown is hedging their bets by laying the Attempt Murder charge they may be employing a strategy fraught with unnecessary risk. By laying an additional highly technical charge they run the risk of overloading and confusing the jury. That possibility will only benefit the man seated in the prisoner’s box.
The Prosecution in this case would have been wise to employ the KISS principle.
Keep it simple, run with the facts, don’t play games and let the chips fall where they may.
Instead they’ve opted for playing games, exerting pressure, convoluting the issue and taking unnecessary risk.
We’ll see how that strategy pans out.
Jury selection is slated for the summer of 2015 with the trial following in the fall.