Criminal Law

Hicks' client not guilty of first-degree murder — convicted of manslaughter

By Staff

A Toronto man was found not guilty of first-degree murder but convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter in the 2015 beating death of an Ottawa music journalist and photographer in a case his lawyer Christopher Hicks says put a "tremendous strain" on the justice system. ... Read Toronto Sun Toronto Star
"A mistrial followed by a second trial in a period of days is highly unusual," Hicks, partner with Hicks Adams LLP, tells "The Crown’s insistence on a second trial put an immense burden on the criminal justice system and defence counsel as well.
"The charge put to the jury by the trial judge was complicated and difficult because the prosecution insisted on pursuing a conviction for first-degree murder," Hicks adds.
Hicks’ client and two co-accused were charged with first-degree murder in the slaying. They were also charged in the confinement and robbery of the victim’s friend. The second trial was held soon after the first resulted in a mistrial over the prosecution's handling of video evidence.
Jurors found one of the co-accused not guilty of first-degree murder but guilty of second-degree murder, the Star reports. He was also found guilty of assaulting the victim’s friend.
The Star also reports that Toronto police conducted an elaborate sting operation that led to the arrest of two of three suspects wanted for the beating death. Details of the sting were never heard by the jury.
Hicks represented his client with co-counsel Jessica Zita, associate with Hicks Adams LLP.
"This was a difficult trial and re-trial for everyone involved," Zita tells "There are no winners here. But everyone played an important part in the process to ensure that the ends of justice were met."
A conviction for first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. There is no minimum sentence for manslaughter committed without a weapon. Sentences vary from probation to life in prison.
Sentencing is set for March 29, 2019.
The third co-accused still faces a first-degree murder charge and is set to be tried separately in the new year.
The slain victim’s friend testified that he was punched, knocked to the ground and kicked to the head, the Star reports. He told the court that Hicks’ client ordered him to “give me your wallet and it’s all over.”
The man also testified that he saw the other two co-accused punch and kick his friend in the head and face, the newspaper says.
The court also heard the three co-accused had been drinking heavily and smoking marijuana the night of the attack.
An Ontario Superior Court justice declared a mistrial the first time the matter was heard, ruling the prosecution showed inadmissible videos of the attack to the jury without first vetting them with the judge.
The Crown had already shown the jury 60 videos of the night of Dec. 29, 2015 and early morning hours of the next day, the Sun reports.
But the judge ruled 11 videos shown during the prosecution's cross-examination shouldn’t have been played.
"Given all the circumstances, the verdict of manslaughter was a favourable result for our client," Hicks says.

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