A judge has thrown out the case of five men on trial for the death of Raymond Ellis, a young Montreal entrepreneur killed in 2005 in a case of mistaken identity.
Judge Sophie Bourque ordered a stay of proceedings Monday at the Gouin courthouse. The judge said the trial could not continue because problems with the prosecution of the case prevented the men from getting a fair trial.
Ellis, a 25-year-old recent graduate of Dawson College, was killed in 2005 at a bar in downtown Montreal.
Ellis and friends had gone to the Aria Bar to celebrate his decision to open a clothing store.
'My heart goes out to the victim's family because I don't think the justice system was that honest with us and the victim's family.'— Cleveland Alexander Scott
Police say a dozen members of a street gang were also there and took Ellis to be a member of a rival gang because of the jacket he was wearing.
Ellis was stabbed multiple times and died from his injuries. His friends escaped.
John Tshiamala, Ernso Theobrun, Evens Belleville, Charles McLee and Cleveland Alexander Scott were each charged with second-degree murder and went on trial as a group.
Prosecution started investigation after witness held back testimony
The trial was plagued by delays and other issues, primarily involving the prosecution's star witness.
The witness first told police he saw the defendants attack the victim. However, when he took the stand in September, the witness told the jury he could not remember any details.
Prosecutors asked for a delay in the case to investigate the sudden memory loss but did not tell the judge the reason for the delay. Judge Bourque ruled that the Crown's behavior was inappropriate.
Defence lawyer Joseph Laleggia said prosecutors took the law into their own hands.
"The judgment speaks for itself," he said outside court.
Accused feels for victim's family
Scott, one of the accused, acknowledged that the judge's decision to throw out the case would be difficult for the victim's family.
"My heart goes out to the victim's family because I don't think the justice system was that honest with us and the victim's family," he told reporters.
The men have been released from jail. The Crown is expected to appeal the ruling.
In March 2008, a 20-year-old man was found guilty of second-degree murder in the same case. His name cannot be published because he was a minor when the crime was committed.