James Forcillo trial: Sammy Yatim's state of mind not relevant, judge says
Jurors also told to ignore certain remarks by Crown about witnesses and victim in streetcar shooting
The jurors who will decide the fate of James Forcillo, the police officer charged in the shooting death of Sammy Yatim aboard a streetcar in downtown Toronto, were instructed on Monday to ignore certain opinions presented by both legal teams.
Justice Edward Then reminded jurors of their responsibilities, and of what the Crown is required to prove, on Monday morning as Forcillo's trial neared its end after months of testimony in Ontario Superior Court.
"I am the judge of the law, you are the judges of the facts," Then told the jury.
Forcillo is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder in the July 2013 shooting death of Yatim, 18, on a streetcar in downtown Toronto. The teenager was standing on an empty streetcar holding a small knife when he was shot.
- Forcillo a 'bully' and a 'hothead', Crown alleges
- 'Misperceptions' led to officer's decision to shoot Yatim
"The state of mind of Mr. Yatim is not relevant. Only the state of mind of the defendant is of relevance," Then said.- Justice Edward Then
Forcillo's wife was sitting in the front row behind her husband as proceedings began. Yatim's parents were also in the front row.
Forcillo fired two volleys of shots at Yatim — nine bullets in all, eight of which struck the teen.
The jury was told it does not need to find a motive for Forcillo's actions, and that Yatim's state of mind prior to their confrontation is not relevant. During testimony the jury heard Yatim had consumed the drug ecstasy before he boarded the streetcar.
"The state of mind of Mr. Yatim is not relevant. Only the state of mind of the defendant is of relevance," Then said.
The judge instructed the jurors they must decide whether they believe Forcillo's testimony that he didn't intend to kill Yatim when he shot him and that, as Forcillo testified, he believed the shooting was necessary for his safety and that of others.
The jury was also reminded to ignore media coverage of the case.
Questions not asked
Then also said the jury should ignore lawyers' opinions about what the opposing side could have asked witnesses. Crown attorney Milan Rupic, for example, at one point noted the defence had not asked witnesses about whether Yatim was sweating while on the streetcar.
Jurors were also told to ignore the Crown's remarks, during closing arguments, that police defence witnesses were "professional witnesses" who had "circled the wagons."
Forcillo claimed during the trial that he opened fire in self-defence, but in his closing argument earlier this month Rupic painted him as a "bully" and "hothead."
Forcillo's lawyer countered that the officer's actions were the result of "misperceptions."
The jury is expected to start its deliberations later this week.
With files from The Canadian Press