Two Toronto men convicted of murder after gang trial
Lavare Williams, 21, and Chael Mills, 23, have been convicted of murder in the death of a Toronto teenager after a three-month trial where Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia argued that a verdict must not be based on rap videos played in court. Read Toronto Star
The trial in the death of seventeen-year-old Mitchell Celise included an array of gang evidence, including six YouTube videos, scores of text messages, rap lyrics, jailhouse letters, photos of graffiti and tattoos, and testimony from gang and handwriting experts, the Star reports.
Mills, the alleged shooter, was convicted of first-degree murder, and receives an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years, while Williams was convicted of second-degree murder and also receives an automatic life sentence, the Star reports.
"I am disappointed with the verdict," Gadhia tells AdvocateDaily.com. "The jury was clearly overwhelmed by the gang evidence and could not see past that material when assessing the identification evidence."
While the prosecution alleged Williams and Mills were members of M.O.B. Klick, a subset of a street gang called the Vaughan Road Bloods, Gadhia argued M.O.B. is a rap group, not a street gang, the Star reports.
She asked jurors to resist the temptation to convict based on some of the rap videos played in court.
"The gang evidence was introduced for a very limited purpose: to determine if M.O.B. Klick is a gang, thereby giving a motive for the murder. But before getting there, the jury must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Williams was involved," Gadhia tells AdvocateDaily.com. "This is an ID case, pure and simple."
Celise was fatally shot in the back on a busy residential street in Toronto in May 2010, the Star report says, noting the case is part of a growing trend of judges sanctioning broader uses of gang evidence.
Read Toronto Star