Sammy Yatim shooting: Const. James Forcillo to face added charge

The police officer charged in last summer's shooting death of Toronto teenager Sammy Yatim will face a new charge of attempted murder - something that baffles at least one expert.

Attempted murder charge will be added to 2nd-degree murder count

Toronto police Const. James Forcillo is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Sammy Yatim. The 18-year-old was fatally shot aboard a streetcar last summer. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

The police officer charged in last summer's shooting death of Sammy Yatim while the Toronto teenager was aboard an empty streetcar will face a new charge of attempted murder.

Const. James Forcillo is already charged with second-degree murder.

Now, one of his lawyers, Lawrence Gridin, says Forcillo has also been charged with attempted murder. The reasons for the additional charge may be related to evidence from the preliminary inquiry that is covered by a publication ban.

Yatim, 18, was shot dead on July 27, 2013, as he stood aboard an empty streetcar while surrounded by police.

Videos of the shooting taken by bystanders and posted online stirred outrage and spurred a report about police use of force during confrontations with people in distress or with a history of mental illness. On the videos, nine shots can be heard following shouted commands for Yatim to drop a knife.

Forcillo, who is out on bail, was suspended with pay, but returned to active duty at Toronto Crime Stoppers in an administrative role in February.

Forcillo is set to make his first court appearance in Superior Court on Wednesday after being committed to trial last month following the preliminary inquiry.

Jury selection in Forcillo's second-degree murder trial is likely to happen next summer, and the trial could start as early as September 2015.

New charge baffles former SIU head

News of the attempted murder charge raises the question: How can prosecutors enter a charge of attempted murder in a case where the victim ultimately died?

Howard Morton is former head of Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, which probes any incident in which someone is seriously hurt or killed during an interaction with police. 

Morton, interviewed on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday, said he finds the new charge against Forcillo somewhat baffling.

"It's an absolute mystery to me," he said "The Supreme Court of Canada in a recent case ruled that where the cause of death is not an issue, there's no air of reality existing for a decision of attempted murder.

"So unless there is some new evidence about the cause of death or the contributing cause of death … it doesn't seem that causation is the reason [for the new charge]."

In the case of second-degree murder, the Crown must prove a specific attempt to kill the victim or to cause bodily harm that is likely to result in death.

Morton said in cases of attempted murder, the issues of intent are the same. The only difference is usually that the intended victim survives.

"That's why [the new charge] just doesn't seem to make much sense," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press