Accounting for Law

Brauti concerned about perception in streetcar shooting case

The media has unfairly depicted the police officer who has been sent to trial over the shooting death of a man on a streetcar as a steroid-using Rambo, Toronto criminal lawyer Peter Brauti tells Sun Media.

The court of pubic opinion has been so harsh, in fact, when it comes to Const. James Forcillo that his lawyer wonders whether there is any chance he can get a fair trial in Toronto, reports the newspaper.

“I’ve got to climb a mountain just to get a level playing field,” Brauti tells the Sun. “It’s not right and it could cause a great injustice. We’re not talking a mischief charge. We’re talking murder. He’s charged with an offence that carries a life sentence because you made a decision at your workplace.”

The officer has been charged with the second-degree murder of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on July 27, 2013. Yatim was pronounced dead at St. Michael’s Hospital. After a three-week investigation by the SIU, Forcillo was arrested for murder, says the newspaper.

Following a preliminary hearing that ended June 16, the seven-year police veteran was committed to stand trial, reports the Sun.

Brauti, partner with Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP, says in the article that there was never a chance that Forcillo might be discharged at the preliminary hearing because there was always agreement that Forcillo intentionally fired his weapon. It's a question, rather, of whether he was justified, says the Sun.

“I conceded committal (on second-degree murder) at the beginning of the case,” Brauti tells the newspaper. “Legally, when dealing with a claim of self defence and defence of others — here it’s the public — those are trial issues that only a trial can decide. Going to trial was a foregone conclusion.”

The evidence revealed at the prelim remains sealed under a publication ban.

Brauti was "anxious to dispel some rumours" that have been swirling around his client, says the article.

“Of any case I’ve ever done, I’ve never seen a guy treated more unfairly in the media and the court of public opinion. That’s straight from the heart," he tells the Sun.

He says there isn't "one shred of evidence" to support the public misconception that he's a steroid-using Rambo as the media has suggested, says the article.

The Sun says that the photo of a bearded Forcillo in sunglasses looking “as if he’s some kind of thug” was actually taken to promote his participation in Movember, the annual charity fundraiser for prostate cancer. And while Forcillo was involved in a gym 15 years ago, his postings on his website were actually anti-steroid use, Brauti explains in the article.

“Anything that can get flipped, gets flipped on this guy," he tells the newspaper.

Brauti also says that "the public has only seen some of the videos that are available and there will be other videos seen at trial that will tell a different story."

The Sun reports that Forcillo was first suspended with pay before the murder charge was laid against him. But Police Chief Bill Blair quietly allowed him to return to work in February in an administrative role for CrimeStoppers.

“I can only assume as more disclosure was released, they realized it was not quite the case it was billed as and they brought him back on modified duties,” Brauti tells the newspaper.

“He desperately wanted to be back at work. He did not want to be sitting at home getting a paycheque and not working.”



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