Jury deliberates on fate of half brothers accused in fatal Chinatown shooting
2 people were killed, 3 others were injured by two gunmen in January 2016
A Toronto jury on Saturday considered circumstantial evidence that prosecutors say implicates two half brothers as gunmen in a 2016 fatal shooting in Chinatown.
The evidence included security camera footage that shows Jahmal Richardson and Kyle Sparks MacKinnon walking with a group of other men down Spadina Avenue on Jan. 31, 2016, shortly before two people were killed and three others were injured in a hail of gunfire outside New Ho King restaurant.
Further, an Ontario Superior Court heard witness accounts from patrons inside the eatery who described what they saw and heard. None of the witnesses were able to definitively point to Richardson and Sparks MacKinnon as the shooters.
They were, however, able to give varying descriptions of the distinctive clothing worn by the gunman, which the Crown said matched the clothing worn by the accused.
Richardson and Sparks MacKinnon were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. Richardson, an alleged gang leader, was also charged with one count of attempted murder.
David Eminess, a 26-year-old father, was killed by a single bullet to the back of his head. Quinn Taylor, 29, was left dying in front of a restaurant doorway after he was shot multiple times.
The jury heard evidence from a Toronto police officer who testified that before Taylor died, he provided a description of the man who shot him.
'Who shot 16 rounds?'
In closing arguments in an Ontario Superior Court, Crown lawyer Susan Adams told the jury, "The only issue is who shot 16 rounds? Who shot two people with two different guns? We say it is a joint venture.
"Without a doubt it, was Mr.Richardson and Mr. Sparks MacKinnon who fired those two guns," she said.
The jury heard witnesses give differing accounts of the height and weight of the alleged shooters, however.
"People always pick up different perspectives … putting all of the parts of the evidence together, it is overwhelming," Adams told the court.
One of the Crown's key witnesses was Stewart Douglas, who was shot in the the head that night but "miraculously survived," in the words of Justice Ian MacDonnell. Douglas was out with friends celebrating his birthday when the shooting occurred.
The three men had gone to Spadina Avenue, just south of College Street, in the early hours of the morning looking for an after party.
Douglas testified he saw a group of men standing outside the New Ho King Restaurant and asked one of them, a light skinned black man with a buzz cut in a sleeveless fur vest, if he knew where there was an after-hours club nearby.
Douglas said he stepped back and lit a cigarette and asked the man again. Then, "something hit the side of my head," he said.
"I see this flash or spark and I hit the floor rapidly."
'I heard a gun and I saw a flash'
During the trial, the jury saw security video of Richardson wearing a sleeveless vest similar to the one Douglas said was worn by one of the gunmen. Douglas remembered the vest because it was an unusual choice of clothing for a January night. The Crown told the jury other witnesses also described the shooter as a man wearing a sleeveless vest.
But Richardson's legal counsel, John Lockyear, suggested it was somebody else in the group of men who fired the bullet.
"Is it possible that is was not the man in the fur vest and you might be wrong?" Lockyear asked Douglas in court.
"No" Douglas answered. "I saw a light-skinned black man wearing a fur vest and I heard a gun and I saw a flash."
Richardson's defence also argued that Douglas suffered from a mental health condition that required him to take medication that could have rendered his testimony unreliable.
In his final remarks, the judge cautioned cautioned the jury about Douglas' testimony. MacDonnel said some of the evidence he gave was untrue, including the fact he said he called 911 after being shot, which didn't happen.
Before Taylor died, he told Toronto police Const. Daniella Quinn that the man who shot him was a light-skinned black man wearing a red shirt and gold chain. The Crown argued Sparks MacKinnon was wearing that clothing and jewellery the night of the shooting.
Some witnesses also described a shooter wearing a red and black, or purple and black, sweater. He carried an object or black pistol in his hand.
Focus on security video
Sparks MacKinnon's lawyer Sid Freeman told the jury her client was holding a cigarette in his hand, not a gun. In her closing arguments, she reviewed security video, frame by frame, that shows Sparks MacKinnon walking on Spadina Avenue at the time of the shooting. She argued he was wearing tight clothing and had no jacket, and therefore could not have concealed a weapon on his person.
Freeman also told the jury Taylor was badly injured, under extreme physical and emotional distress and losing blood when he gave his description of the shooter to the officer. The defence lawyer pointed out Taylor also had alcohol in his system — and all those factors together makes his evidence unreliable, she said.
The jury heard many of the other witnesses interviewed in the case had also been drinking.
"All the witnesses said it happened fast and lasted only a few seconds," Freeman said. "Would you want the liberty of your loved one taken away on this evidence?"
In his final remarks, MacDonnell told the jury it had to decide what testimony to accept in determining the fate of Richardson and Sparks MacKinnon.
"There is no dispute the defendants were present outside the New Ho King restaurant. The question is, were they one of the shooters? You must satisfy, beyond a reasonable doubt, the identity of the gunman … in particular, if the shooters clothing could identify the shooter?
"I have told you be very careful. On occasion there has been a miscarriage of justice because eyewitnesses have made mistakes," he said.
The jury's decision is expected in the coming days.