Category Archives: Court Cases

Killer Cop James Forcillo Appeals Conviction for Killing Sammy Yatim on Bogus “Suicide by Cop” Claim

The notion of “suicide by cop” is a phony construct devised as a cynical ruse to excuse killer cops and get them off the hook when they kill civilians. The problems with this notion have been detailed and analyzed repeatedly in this project. Applied after the fact and in a range of instances, including those in which the cop killed someone who posed no threat to police or the public, the excuse covers up killings which are in no way suicides. If a police officer chooses to shoot someone who is isolated from the public and poses no threat to anyone, that is not suicide. If the cop has a choice not to kill, that killing is not a suicide. Saying it is denies the dignity of the victim who has not chosen to  end their own life. It has been consciously ended for them. Without consent. Suicide by cop is in these cases purely propagandistic.

Yet killer cops, their departments, and police associations routinely trot this piece of copaganda out in diverse circumstances. Such is the case of Toronto Constable James Focillo who shot 18-year-old Sammy Yatim multiple times while the youth was all alone and readily contained on an inoperative and empty streetcar. Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to six years in prison for the 2013 killing of Yatim. Forcillo is now appealing his conviction on the basis that testimony arguing for “suicide by cop” in Yatim’s case was excluded from the trial. The testimony was provided from cop “criminologist” Rick Parent of Simon Fraser University who has built a tidy side career on justifying “suicide by cop” claims by his colleagues who kill.

The suicide by cop claim is ludicrous in this case. First, Yatim was alone and contained and posed no threat to the public or police. Secondly, Forcillo fired two distinct volleys of multiple shots at the youth, pausing before shooting the second volley even after the young man had fallen dead from the first round of shots. Clearly not a suicide. Forcillo had multiple opportunities not to shoot and to stop shooting. There is no way to construe that as a suicide on Yatim’s part.

Forcillo, who is currently on bail pending the appeal, is asking for a not guilty verdict or a new trial. Forcillo is asking the appeal court, which is set to hear his case this fall, to substitute a not-guilty verdict or order a new trial. The killer cop is also seeking a declaration that his mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder is unconstitutional, and seeks a suspended sentence. Absent these outcomes he wants his sentence reduced to the minimum of five years.


Killer Montreal Cop Christian Gilbert Charged for Killing Bony Jean-Pierre

It is among the rarest of occurrences in Canada that a killer cop is ever charged for taking the life of a civilian. Oversight agencies, which are not autonomous or independent of police, prosecutors, and judges work to ensure that the state protects the state and killer cops are legitimized. On Wednesday, May 24, 2017 one of those rare events occurred with the laying of charges against Montreal police officer Christian Gilbert who killed 46-year-old Bony Jean-Pierre on March 31, 2016.

Murder charges against police are unheard of and officer Gilbert has been charged with manslaughter. He shot Jean-Pierre in the head with a rubber bullet, a projectile that police routinely use, as in protests for example, and which police propagandists pose as non-lethal.  The charges were announced by Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP). Officer Gilbert was released under a promise to appear on July 6, 2017.

The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations), Quebec’s investigation unit, which now examines incidents of police harm to civilians was not established when the investigation into Jean-Pierre’s killing was initiated. Instead the charges come, incredibly, following an investigation by Quebec provincial police, the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).

The Montreal North community, long angered by police targeting and violence organized and mobilized in response to the police killing of Jean-Pierre. At least 100 people participated in a march and rally in June. At that time some cars and banks were vandalized and objects thrown at the police station in a community uprising. The march occurred on what would have been the 26th birthday of Fredy Villanueva, a young man shot and killed by police in 2008 when Montreal policed moved aggressively to break up a game of dice in a park. Yes, he was killed for playing dice. The killing of Fredy Villanueva highlighted the racist targeted policing practices of Montreal police, reinforced by the killing of Bony Jean-Pierre.


Judicial Review Sought over Dropped Charges in Case of Killer Cops Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau

Courts in Canada have consistently protected police officers who kill against prosecution. Usually charges are not laid and in other cases charges are dropped after it is decided there has been too long a delay in bringing the officers to trial. The state determinedly protects the state. In the case of the killing of Michel Vienneau by Bathurst police officers Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau in 2015 a judicial review is now being sought after a provincial judge Anne Dugas-Horsman decided earlier in 2017 not to bring the officers to trial. They had faced charges of manslaughter. The judge’s decision was roundly criticized and shocked family and friends who then initiated a petition calling for a review.

On January 12, 2015, 51-year-old Michel Vienneau of Tracadie, New Brunswick, was shot and killed by Bathurst Police Force Constable Patrick Bulger (38) and Constable Mathieu Boudreau (26) under highly dubious circumstances. Vienneau was shot as he left the Bathurst VIA Rail train station following return from a trip to Montreal with his partner Annick Basque. The officers were supposedly responding to accusations against the couple through an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip. A subsequent investigation by RCMP found that neither Vienneau nor Basque were involved in any criminal activity and neither were carrying drugs as the tip claimed.

On Tuesday, April 11, 2017 it was announced that New Brunswick’s public prosecution services is seeking a judicial review of Provincial Court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman’s decision not to proceed to trial in the case. Judge Dugas-Horsman ruled in February 2017 that there was not enough evidence to take the officers to trial.

According to spokesperson Sheila Lagacé in a prepared statement: “Public prosecutions services is of the opinion that the judge at the preliminary hearing failed to consider all of the relevant evidence and thereby committed a jurisdictional error” (quoted in Yard and MacKinnon 2017).

Judge Dugas-Horsman had ruled that the prosecution failed to meet the threshold that both accused officers engaged in an illegal act when they killed Vienneau. The public prosecutions services wants a Court of Queen’s Bench justice to review that decision.

The Court of Queen’s Bench could uphold the decision of the provincial court or officers Bulger and Boudreau could be committed to stand trial following the review (Yard and MacKinnon 2017). The review will be based on information already on record.

According to defense lawyer Lutz this is “a highly unusual manner of proceeding” (quoted in Yard and MacKinnon 2017). He suggests that it is, in fact, the “first time he has heard of a judicial review in this type of situation in years” (Yard and MacKinnon 2017). It is, however, the only way to appeal a preliminary inquiry decision which can not be appealed in regular procedures because it is “an interim of a court process” (quoted in Yard and MacKinnon 2017.

Of note, public prosecution services is somewhat independent and does not act on direction from the provincial government in carrying out its responsibilities (Yard and MacKinnon 2017).

 

Further Reading

Yard, Bridget and Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon. 2017. “Judicial Review Sought of Decision Not To Try Police in Bathurst Shooting Death.” CBC News. April 11. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/bulger-boudreau-vienneau-bathurst-judicial-review-1.4065361


Donald Dunphy’s Daughter Sues Killer Cop Joseph Smyth, Newfoundland Force, and Province

In the Canadian context families of people killed by police can rarely, if ever, expect that the officers involved will be held to account in any way through criminal proceedings. This is not surprising given the state’s inclination to protect its own who kill in upholding the state. Often times the only way that victims’ families can gain a sense of some accountability is through the pursuit of civil suits. The killing of Donald Dunphy (58) by officer Joseph Smyth in Newfoundland shows clearly the state protecting the state in the case of a killer cop. Once again family, in this case Dunphy’s daughter Meghan, have had to file a civil suit against the officer, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), and the province.

Donald Dunphy was an injured worker who, like many injured workers in jurisdictions across Canada, was frustrated with a process that often ignores or downplayed workers’ concerns or needs and seems more inclined to protect capital or negligent businesses. Dunphy, like many dealing with recalcitrant bureaucratic institutions with few resources for legal sup[port or advocacy, took to social media, especially Twitter, to air criticisms of the workers’ compensation system. Dunphy’s friends and family members note that while angry he was not violent. He was never known to use guns.

The statement of claim filed by Meghan Dunphy states: “The death of Donald Dunphy was caused by the wrongful act or neglect of Joseph Smyth” (quoted in Bailey 2017). The lawsuit also names as defendants Smyth’s force, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and the Newfoundland and Labrador government for its responsibility in overseeing the force.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Constable Joe Smyth was a member of then-premier Paul Davis’s security team on April 5, 2015, when he made an unannounced visit to Dunphy’s home in Mitchell’s Brook, Newfoundland. Smyth made the drive 80 kilometres southwest of St. John’s apparently because of a social media post that the premier’s staff had flagged as being  “of concern” (quoted in Bailey 2017). During the visit Smyth would shoot Dunphy twice in the head and once in his left chest. He claimed the man raised a gun and police say a .22 caliber rifle owned by Dunphy’s father was found at his feet. No fingerprints of Dunphy could be found on the gun. Police accounts have not been independently verified.

The reason given for the visit, targeting a civilian because of some tweets on Twitter, should raise serious questions about the role of police as political agents defending politicians against mere statements of dissent and punishing political critics for simple expression of opposition. Constable Smyth was never charged for his unannounced political visit and apparent attempt at intimidation nor for his killing of Donald Dunphy.

A public commission of inquiry into the killing raised more concerns. Constable Smyth first testified at the inquiry over the course of three days in January. He was recalled in March when text messages discovered after his initial appearance appeared clearly to contradict his sworn testimony. Smyth had initially testified that he never considered Dunphy a threat and never received advice on his notes regarding the shooting. Yet in later retrieved BlackBerry messages, Smyth told an unidentified friend the day before the killing of Dunphy that he had to deal with a “lunatic” who was “threatening the premier” (quoted in 2017). Smyth tried to explain the deletions prior to the inquiry by stating that he deleted direct text messages habitually to clear space on his phone (Bailey 2017). He also claimed that he did not mean the term “lunatic” in a derogatory way, because who, really would take it as such. He said he was simply referring to social media comments that he viewed as ranting (Bailey 2017).

Smyth also claimed during his second inquiry appearance that he had no recollection of numerous text exchanges the day following the shooting with RNC Sergeant Tim Buckle about notes Smyth would take to his RCMP interview that afternoon (Bailey 2017). This for someone overly focused on electronic messaging.

Newfoundland has no special unit to investigate incidents of harm by police to civilians so, incredibly, the investigation into Smyth’s killing of Donald Dunphy was carried out by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This despite the fact that Meghan Dunphy raised issues of fairness and transparency and requested that an outside agency be used. Stunningly RCMP investigators even told the inquiry that they “inappropriately shared evidence with Smyth” or “were more casual with him” (Bailey 2017), They stood by their findings and, dubiously, so too did the inquiry.

The inquiry into Dunphy’s killing, led by provincial Court of Appeal judge Leo Barry, took place over two months beginning in January 2017 and heard from more than 50 witnesses. As is the case with such inquiries, the Dunphy inquiry could not make findings of criminal or civil responsibility. Judge Barry is scheduled to provide his report and any recommendations by July 1.

 

Further Reading

Bailey, Sue. 2017. “Daughter of Man Shot Dead by Newfoundland Police Sues Officer, Force, Province.” CTV News. April 5. http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/daughter-of-man-shot-dead-by-newfoundland-police-sues-officer-force-province-1.3355744


Ottawa Police Sell “United We Stand” Bracelets Supporting Cop Daniel Montsion who Killed Abdirahman Abdi

Observant commentators have suggested that police actually operate like a gang, closing ranks unquestioningly to support their own no matter how egregious the member’s actions may have been. While there is some truth in this, police are not quite like gangs in that they lack the honor of gangs who at least have some limits, some acts they will not tolerate among members. If anyone needs a case in point they need only look at the dubious activities of the Ottawa Police Association and Ottawa police officers in response to the killing of Abdirahman Abdi, a Somalian-Canadian man suffering mental distress who was beaten to death by Constable Daniel Montsion in July of 2016. Montsion had previously expressed a problem with a suspect who was Somalian.

On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the first day of preliminary court procedures leading to Montsion’s trial for manslaughter, several Ottawa police officers wore blue and black rubber wristbands stating “United We Stand #1998.” The number printed on the band is actually Montsion’s badge number. The rubber band bracelets are being sold for $2 apiece with the money going to the Ottawa Police Association.

This open show of support for a killer cop whose brutal beating of the defenseless man was partly caught on video is a tasteless and provocative move in a context that is already heated and where community members have mobilized against racist policing. It is an arrogant move that is clearly an attempt to put pressure on the court even as police say they do not comment on cases before the courts.

Incredibly the cops are using the excuse that it is a measure to address the trauma officers face on the job. This is part of a growing campaign to pose police crimes as primarily being about traumas for officers who then need more public money and resources for support. Some paid “criminologists” are being mustered to lend a veneer of credibility to the trauma money appeals led by police associations. Those same bought “criminologists” show little to no regard for the victims of police violence.

A spokesperson for the Justice for Abdirahman Abdi campaign, William Felepchuk, calls the bracelets an “outrage.” He notes that the nature of the crime Monsion is accused of is severe and suggest the move is an interference in the criminal justice process. Felepchuk further notes that police would not be so welcoming of civilians wearing such arm bands in cases of someone accused of killing a police officer.

Police always have pressures, both overt like the arm bands and covert like implied non-cooperation with prosecution, to apply on broader criminal justice processes. One should not expect anything resembling justice from the state in its dealings with killer cops.


Killer Cop Eric Deslauriers on Trial for Manslaughter in Killing of David Lacour (17)

On March 22, 2017 trial began for killer Sureté du Quebec (SQ) officer Eric Deslauriers in the killing of 17-year-old David Lacour in Ste. Adele, Quebec on January 22, 2014. Deslauriers shot and killed Lacour after apparently responding to a call about a stolen car. The prosecution argues that Deslauriers shot the teenager rather than have him escape.

It is exceedingly rare for police officers who kill civilians to be subjected to any punishment. Charges are almost never laid and full trials virtually never held. Killer cops are certainly treated to a different, and decidedly favorable response, from the criminal justice system than are civilians who kill. This is in no way surprising. As we have documented repeatedly, the state protects its officers. And there should be no illusions that the state would deliver anything resembling justice in such cases of state (police) violence.


Legal Petition Filed Against VPD Chief Adam Palmer and Seven Officers for Non-Cooperation in Investigation into Killing by Cops

The story of oversight of police forces and investigations into police harm to civilians in Canada has been consistently one of obstruction, intimidation, harassment, non-cooperation, and silencing by police toward investigative bodies and officials. This has been the case in every province that has an investigative body tasked with examining instances of police harm to civilians.

In British Columbia the situation has been so dire that the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has had to take the extraordinary step of filing a legal petition against Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer and seven officers for not cooperating with the IIO investigation into the fatal police shooting of Daniel Peter Rintoul on November 10, 2016. This is not the only case that the IIO has been stonewalled on or otherwise faced non-cooperation from police forces in the province. The IIO has previously noted problems with police not following proper procedures or providing information in a timely manner.

Another case of the VPD killing a civilian under even more questionable circumstances in which the force has not provided information to the public or the victim’s family and has frustrated the IIO investigation involves the killing of Myles Gray in 2015. Officers involved in that killing, in which Gray was beaten to death while confined in a backyard, are not cooperating with the IIO. The Gary family has been forced to file suit against the city and police to find some answers.

Not surprisingly the police association, a reactionary force, has responded to the IIO complaints with attempts to discredit the investigative body and undermine its (already limited) work. Tom Stamatakis, president of the Vancouver Police Union and the BC Police Association has whined publicly about IIO interviews because, incredibly, officer could be incriminated (as if police have any qualms about their own interview techniques which are infinitely more forceful). Even more pathetic Stamatakis has complained publicly that the IIO investigators refer to investigations as murder investigations or homicide investigations. But the killing of a human, by cops or otherwise, is by simple definition a homicide. And there is little concern by Stamatakis that police use such terms in their investigations. Perhaps they will stop.

All of this is a continuation of police tactics of intimidation, harassment, obstruction, and interference with investigations by oversight bodies in Canadian contexts. It is one reason that there is no real independent oversight of and accountability for police in any province in Canada.