Jordan Manners accused found not guilty

The two men accused of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Toronto high school student Jordan Manners have been found not guilty.
Donald McLeod, lawyer for J.W., appears before reporters outside the courtroom on Thursday shortly after his client and another man were found not guilty in the shooting death of Jordan Manners. (Patrick Morell/CBC News)

The two men accused of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Toronto high school student Jordan Manners have been found not guilty.

Manners, a 15-year-old Grade 9 student, was shot in the chest at his Toronto high school almost four years ago. 

Two men known only as C.D. and J.W. were charged with first-degree murder in the death — the city's first fatal school shooting.

It was the second trial for the pair, who were 17 when Manners was killed and can't be identified.

The first trial ended in a mistrial last year after four days of deliberations could not produce a unanimous verdict.

CBC's Stephanie Matteis, who is covering the trial, said the verdict drew emotional responses from both sides. Manners's aunt Ramona Manners ran from the courtroom, while shouts erupted from friends and family of the accused.

"What else can I say? They were found not guilty by a court of law," Ramona Manners told CBC News. "God will judge them when the time is right."

Jordan's mother Loreen Small had attended court regularly during both trials but was not at the courthouse on Thursday.

Crown plans no appeal

Outside the courtroom, prosecutor Tom Lissaman said there would not be an appeal.

"This was a very difficult case for the prosecution," said Lissaman. "We respect the verdict of the jury and our hearts go out to the Manners family, in particular Jordan's mother."

"These boys have been in custody for a very long time," said J.W.'s lawyer, Donald McLeod. "Although it's not a day to be elated, I think it's a day for us to at least see that justice did the job that we believe should have been done today."

Det. Sgt. Mike Barsky, the lead investigator on the case, told CBC News he still believes C.D. and J.W. were responsible for Jordan's death.

"We don't believe for one minute that the wrong people were arrested," he told CBC News.

Jordan Manners, 15, was shot dead at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate in May 2007. ((CBC))

During that trial, two key witnesses backed away from statements they had earlier given police. One of the teenage girls said she couldn't recall the events while another said her account was based mainly on gossip.

A retrial began in March with the two accused, now 21, again pleading not guilty.

The Crown alleged the two had planned to rob Manners but it ended in murder. The defence argued that Manners was accidentally shot while examining the gun with two other students in a second-floor washroom at the north-end school.

Witnesses included students and school staff, with one teacher testifying that Manners was fascinated with guns.

Court heard Manners and the accused were friends and the Crown was not able to demonstrate there was any conflict between them.

But Lissaman played a videotaped statement from a key witness, a former student named Y.M., who told police she saw J.W. dragging Manners down the stairs "like a rag doll." Appearing in court, however, Y.M. said she invented the statement to get attention.

'Sweet little boy'

Other witnesses put C.D. at the scene, although he had reportedly dropped out of school.

Manners's death at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute on May 23, 2007, sent shockwaves through the city.

The slight teen, described as a "sweet little boy" by neighbours, had celebrated his 15th birthday just days before he was found lying in the school stairwell, a 25-calibre bullet lodged in his body. 

The boy was shot at such close range there was a powder burn on his jacket, court heard. His clothes had to be cut off because his jacket zipper was melted closed by the gunshot.

Witnesses told court they didn't immediately realize what had happened since there was very little blood and Manners, struggling to breathe, was unable to talk.

His death pushed the issue of school safety to the forefront, as police officers were posted to many Toronto high schools, security cameras were installed, reviews were ordered and legislation was passed to protect students.

With files from The Canadian Press