MANDEL: Justice at last for Sammy Yatim
December 6, 2018
December 6, 2018 6:27 PM EST
At long last, Sammy Yatim can rest in peace.
With the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal of his conviction and sentence, James Forcillo is out of options. The former Toronto Police constable — he officially resigned in September — must now pay his debt to society with no more avenues left to escape justice for attempted murder.
The trigger-happy cop can no longer argue he had legal justification to fire the second volley of shots that hit the 18-year-old as he already lay dying on the floor of that empty streetcar on July 27, 2013. The time has finally come for Forcillo to take responsibility for his horrible decision.
Toronto Police Const. James Forcillo leaves the courthouse at 361 University Ave. in Toronto on May 16, 2016. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun)
And after all these years, some expression of remorse from him is long overdue.
To the family foremost. And to the city as well.
It was the viral video that we can never unsee: Just 50 seconds into being called to the empty Dundas St. streetcar where the troubled Yatim, high on Ecstasy, had exposed himself to passengers and now stood armed with a small switchblade, Forcillo opened fire and pumped three bullets into the young man.
He didn’t try to de-escalate the situation, He didn’t ask what was wrong. He didn’t even ask his name.
A jury of his peers acquitted Forcillo of second-degree murder for firing those initial fatal shots. But they could not justify his pause of 5.5 seconds and then his indefensible decision to fire six more times. They convicted him of attempted murder.
A Superior Court judge ordered Forcillo jailed for six years because firing the second volley of shots was “unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive” and an “egregious breach of trust.”
Forcillo appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, but in April they upheld his conviction and sentence. So his lawyers applied for leave to appeal to the highest court in the land.
In the meantime, he was happily out on bail, having served just one night in jail after his conviction. But after being caught at his new fiancee’s home instead of the house he shared with his ex-wife and surety, Forcillo was sent to federal prison last year.
James Forcillo leaves 361 University Courthouse with his wife Irina Forcilla on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. (Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network) Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun
And there he will remain now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear his appeal.
“We respect that decision,” tweeted Forcillo’s appeal lawyer Michael Lacy. “This ends the legal proceedings and Mr. Forcillo will now continue to serve out his sentence.”
Peter Brauti, who defended him at trial, was disappointed by the decision but admitted he was relieved the legal odyssey is finally over.
“There were very unique issues in this case that were being decided for the first time and we would have liked the Supreme Court to weigh in on those issues,” the lawyer said.
“This was a difficult and hard-fought case but it’s safe to say now the final chapter has been written.”
At least the legal one.
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“We are grateful to the Supreme Court of Canada for this decision,” Yatim’s father Bill said in a statement. “And we hope that with this decision, Mr. Forcillo finally accepts his conviction and sentence, and responsibility for his actions.”
For Yatim’s family, of course, this tragic story will never end.
The pain of losing a child will last forever. As well, there are still civil lawsuits to be argued and continuing demands for a change in police culture as well as discipline for the sergeant who Tasered Yatim.
“The conduct of Officer Dusan Pravica, who was responsible for Tasering my son, Sammy, after he had already been shot nine times, has yet to be addressed,” the father said. “The complaint into Mr. Pravica’s conduct was made over five years ago.”
Still they wait.
Yet for the man who shot their son on that horrible summer night, time speeds ahead.
Forcillo is already eligible to apply for day parole next July.