TORONTO – Canada’s top court has refused to hear an appeal from a Toronto police officer jailed for the shooting of a teenager on an empty streetcar five years ago.
In a decision released on Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada denied Const. James Forcillo leave to appeal his conviction and sentence.
In 2016, a jury acquitted Forcillo of the second-degree murder of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, who was holding a small knife, but convicted the officer of attempted murder. The conviction related to a second volley of bullets Forcillo fired after Yatim was down and dying.
Forcillo’s lawyers argued the first and second volleys the officer fired were artificially divided into discrete events. They also wanted to contest his initial six-year sentence, which was a year longer than the mandatory minimum.
Forcillo was one of the first officers to respond to a call about a teen exposing himself on the streetcar while brandishing a small knife. By the time police arrived, Yatim was the only person left on the streetcar in the early morning hours of July 2013.
Forcillo fired an initial three shots, which caused Yatim to fall to the floor of the streetcar, then fired a second volley of six more shots. He was the only officer to fire his weapon. The bursts lasted less than 10 seconds. Another officer then tasered the teen.
Bystander video of the shooting that surfaced sparked widespread public outrage.
Ontario’s top court dismissed Forcillo’s appeal in April, prompting him to apply to the Supreme Court.
In upholding the conviction and sentence, the Ontario Court of Appeal found the officer’s second volley to have been “clearly unnecessary and excessive.” In asking the Supreme Court to weigh in, Forcillo’s lawyers wanted to argue that the first and second rounds of shots were not two different “transactions.”
In their application to the high court, the lawyers also argued that mandatory minimum sentences are intended to deter people from committing crimes. However, they maintained deterrence did not apply because Forcillo legally used his gun in good faith.
Forcillo recently had six months added to his sentence after pleading guilty to perjury. He had also been charged with breaching the conditions of his bail while awaiting the Ontario Court of Appeal decision along with obstruction of justice, but those charges were dropped after his guilty plea.
© 2018 The Canadian Press