Category Archives: Court Cases

Killer Winnipeg Cop Justin Holz Could Face Additional Charges in Cody Severight Killing

On Friday, October 13, 2017, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth told the city’s civilian police board that additional charges could be coming against Constable Justin Holz  for allegedly driving while impaired and fleeing the scene after hitting and killing pedestrian Cody Severight on October 10, 2017.  Smyth told the board that the results of a breathalyzer have not yet been analyzed and could bring about the further criminal charge of driving with a blood alcohol concentration over .08, which is 80 milligrams of alcohol for every 100 milliliters of blood. Constable Holz has been charged with impaired driving causing death and failure to remain at the scene.

Smyth also told the police board that further disciplinary action could be taken against Constable Holz once the investigation is complete. This could come even before the case goes to court. Holz is presently on administrative leave with pay but Smyth acknowledged that future disciplinary action could include dismissal of the officer.

This is not the first time a Winnipeg police officer has hit and killed someone while driving after an evening of drinking. In 2005 officer Derek Harvey-Zenk killed Crystal Taman after driving home from an all night drinking party with other officers. Several charges were initially brought against Harvey-Zenk, including impaired driving causing death, but all except dangerous driving causing death were stayed in a highly controversial plea bargain. Harvey-Zenk was eventually sentenced to two years less a day to be served at home.

Upon hearing about Constable Holz killing Cody Severight while driving after drinking, Robert Taman, Crystal Taman’s husband, expressed sadness and dismay. Taman, who became an advocate for police reform after the killing of his wife, offered a stark assessment of prospects for change among police:

 

“But it never changes. So if it doesn’t change [that means] they don’t find it important enough to change, so it’s going to continue until the organization, the association, somebody steps up and says, ‘That’s enough.’” (quoted in CBC News 2017)

 

So no one should hold their breath awaiting additional charges or further disciplinary actions from police. Despite what the chief says.

The Independent Investigation Unit, which examines all cases of harm to civilians serious incidents involving police officers in Manitoba, is investigating the killing. Holz has been released from custody on a promise to appear in court on November 22, 2017.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “’Nothing Hidden’: Truth Must be Revealed in Cody Severight Hit-and-Run Death, Crystal Taman’s Husban Says.” October 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/robert-taman-cody-severight-fatal-crash-1.4351359

 

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Trial Begins for Killer Cop Simon Beaulieu in Guy Blouin Killing

Québec City police officer Simon Beaulieu killed 48-year-old Guy Blouin on September 3, 2014, striking the victim with his vehicle. Guy Blouin died in hospital from the fatal chest injuries inflicted by Beaulieu.

On October 13, 2017 the first witness testified in Beaulieu’s trial with the officer facing charges of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. Yves Brière, a crime scene reconstruction expert with the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force, testified that Beaulieu’s police cruiser hit and killed Guy Blouin while backing up on a one-way street at 44 kilometers an hour.

Brière showed Québec Court Judge René de la Sablonnière photos of the police cruiser, and explained that Blouin and the bicycle slid under the car, at the corner of Saint-François Est and du Parvis streets, in the Saint-Roch neighborhood. Blouin was run over with the right rear wheel of the cruiser. Brière testified that by the time the police car driven by Beaulieu had stopped, Blouin’s body was lying seven meters away. The police car’s bumper showed several rubber marks where the bicycle slid under the car, according to Brière.

Incredibly officer Beaulieu was promoted from constable to sergeant-detective after driving over and killing Guy Boulin. And people wonder why the public might be skeptical about prospects for police accountability within a system that depends on and rewards killer cops. Killer cop Beaulieu has been on desk duty pending his trial.


Killer Toronto Cop James Forcillo’s Appeal Begins: Seeks Bogus Suicide-By-Cop Excuse

On Monday, October 2, 2017, killer Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo began the appeal of his conviction in the shooting and killing of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on July 27, 2013.  Forcillo’s lawyers asking the Ontario Court of Appeal to reconsider an interpretation of the killing and the timing of shots fired by Forcillo.

In 2016, a jury acquitted Forcillo of second-degree murder but convicted him of attempted murder after he shot and killed the distraught Yatim, who was isolated and alone on a Toronto streetcar. Forcillo shot the stricken youth after he had fallen down from the first shots, leading to the attempted murder charge and conviction (since Yatim was incapacitated when he was shot what other motive was there to keep shooing?). Forcillo was sentenced to six years in prison but remains free on bail until possibly 2018 pending the outcome of his appeal.

Forcillo’s lawyers disagree with instructions from Justice Edward that allowed the jury to consider the killer cop’s first three shots as a separate event from his next six shots. They occurred five-and-a-half seconds apart, the second volley coming after Yatim had already fallen from a fatal shot to the chest.

Even more disturbing Forcillo’s lawyers are also appealing the conviction on the grounds that they were denied the opportunity  to frame Yatim’s killing as an attempted suicide. This ploy seeks to make use of the dubious and despicable “suicide by cop” excuse used often by police officers, forces, and police associations to justify and legitimize police killings of civilians. It has interested copagandist “criminologists” (typically current or former cops) ready and willing to promote the excuse in court on behalf of (fellow) officers. The lawyers argue that because Yatim wanted to die, less lethal interventions from Forcillo would not have worked. Forcillo lawyer Joseph Wilkinson argued at the Monday hearing that the trial judge should have allowed the evidence to “counterbalance” the Crown’s view that Sammy Yatim was a “person in crisis” who Forcillo could have dealt with without deploying  lethal force. This excuse always  seeks to remove the conscious decision of officers  to shoot someone even in cases, like that of Sammy Yatim, the victim is alone and isolated and poses no direct or immediate threat to the public or officers. The officer has the opportunity to decide and still chooses to shoot to kill. That is not suicide by any definition.

The case is being heard by a three judge panel consisting of Chief Justice George Strathy, Justice David Doherty, and Justice Gary Trotter.


Killer Toronto Cop James Forcillo Has Bail Extended to 2018

Toronto police constable James Forcillo shot and killed Sammy Yatim in 2013. Forcillo shot Yatim multiple times, firing even after the stricken youth had fallen dead. At the time Forcillo shot Sammy Yatim, the distressed youth was isolated and completely alone on a Toronto streetcar posing no threat to police or the public (as captured on witness video of the killing). For this Forcillo was sentenced in 2016 to six years behind bars, for attempting to kill Yatim (but curiously not for murder). That sentence was a rarity for killer cops in Canada, who are rarely charged and almost never convicted as the state protects the state in such cases.

Forcillo has been out on bail as he appeals the verdict and sentence. On Friday, September 29, 2017, Forcillo was granted a bail extension. A bail extension document states that the appeal process will contain a “fresh evidence phase.” The previous bail conditions for Forcillo were set to expire on Sunday, October 1, 2017, one day before the killer cops is scheduled to appeal his conviction for attempted murder in killing Sammy Yatim. Forcillo will now remain free either until the day before that hearing or until April 2, 2018 (whichever comes first).

Killer cop Forcillo is asking the appeal court to substitute a not-guilty verdict or to  order a new trial in his case. Forcillo, a member of an institution that favors and promotes mandatory minimum sentences, is also seeking a declaration that the mandatory minimum sentence for attempted murder is unconstitutional (erstwhile proponents always want mandatory sentences dropped when they come close to home). Instead Forcillo wants to be granted a suspended sentence. Otherwise he seeks a reduction of his sentence to the minimum five years.

Incredibly, Forcillo’s appeal wishes to have arguments presented arguing for the bogus and discredited “suicide by cop” justification for police killings. This is a piece of propaganda, or copaganda, used to  excuse or legitimize police killings of civilians. It is a mechanism for blaming the victim and removing a killer cop’s responsibility in deciding to shoot and kill someone who may have been in distress, even where they posed no threat to the public or to officers (as in a youth alone in an empty streetcar). It is despicable and nasty ploy by police and their supporters. Unfortunately there are unprincipled “criminologists” for hire (usually active or former cops) who are willing to promote this copaganda in courts to defend killer cops.


Alberta Killer RCMP Michelle Phillips Pleads Not Guilty in Death of Tracy Janvier

It is, of course, rare for killer cops in Canada to be charged with criminal offenses for harming civilians. The state protects the state. One of those rare cases involves Alberta RCMP Constable Michelle Phillips. The constable has pleaded not guilty to two charges in the killing of 41-year-old Indigenous person Tracy Janvier on August 21, 2016. In June 2017, one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. Constable Phillips was charged with  The killer cop was not present in court when the pleas were entered by a lawyer on August 30, 2017. A preliminary inquiry is scheduled to be held in June 2018.

The charges came after an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province. ASIRT concluded Janvier died as a result of being struck and killed by an RCMP vehicle traveling at “an extremely high rate of speed.” Constable Phillips had been responding to a call about an accident on the road in which Janivier, who had been struck by a previous vehicle, was being tended to by a 71-year-old man. Constable Phillips hit both the injured Janvier and the 71-year-old caregiver with her police vehicle at high speed.

At the time of the killing Constable Phillips had one year of service with the RCMP. RCMP have claimed the officers have been suspended with pay and will remain off duty until internal processes and all criminal charges against her are dealt with.


Toronto Constables Jeffery Riel and Darryl Lambie Identified as Officers in Killing of Kwasi Skene-Peters

A court case has revealed the names of two officers in the killing of Kwasi Skene-Peters (21) in 2015 to be Constable Jeffery Riel and Constable Darryl Lambie. The names of the officers who shot at Skene-Peters were released as part of a court case involving Kevin Duro (26), who was a passenger in the car at the time of the police killing. The officers were members of the controversial and now-disbanded Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) team.

The names of police officers involved in killing civilians in Canada are rarely made public, typically only being revealed in coroners’ inquests, lawsuits by family members,  or court cases. Killer cops are rarely charged for their actions in the Canadian context.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which examines cases of police harm to civilians but does not release the names of killer cops publicly has already exonerated the officers who killed Skene-Peters. They have not confirmed that the officers named in the Duro court case are the subject officers in the Skene-Peters killing, but the court case identifies them as the two who fired shots during that event.

Neither subject officer spoke with the SIU or provided a copy of their notes during the investigation, a limitation of such investigations. However, they had no problem giving their accounts of the shooting in order to secure Kevin Duro’s conviction on firearms charges.


Alberta Killer Cop Michelle Phillips Has First Court Appearance, Victim’s Family Not Notified

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, RCMP Constable Michelle Phillips had her first court appearance on charges of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm in the killing of 41-year-old Tracy Janvier on August 21, 2016.

Janvier’s family is speaking publicly about concerns that this RCMP killing is going to be swept under the rug. Tracy Janvier was walking on a highway near Anzac, south of Fort McMurray, Alberta, when struck by a car and injured. Incredibly Constable Phillips drove over and killed the stricken victim while racing to the scene without slowing.

In a news release announcing the laying of charges the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province stated:

 

“While responding [to the scene] at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing. Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him.”

 

The police vehicle also hit a 71-year-old man who was helping Janvier. That man suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The family is concerned it was kept in the dark regarding the change in time of Constable Phillips’ court appearance.

Said Marina Nokohoo, Janvier’s sister, at the courthouse in Fort McMurray: “My brother deserves justice. He paid the ultimate price. My mom and dad, they’ve lost a child. So they feel that loss. They feel that impact more than any of us. Yet, because they are still our parents they are still taking care of us who are grieving.” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

Nokohoo continued: “I just don’t want to make it so that my brother’s death is going to be swept under the rug, or it’s going to be forgotten about. He’s my brother. He’s a human being. He’s important as anyone else” (quoted in Thurton 2017).

The next court date is scheduled for August 30, 2017.

 

Further Reading

Thurton, David. 2017. “‘My Brother Deserves Justice,’ Says Family of Alberta Man Killed by Speeding RCMP Vehicle.” CBC News. August 2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/tracy-janvier-rcmp-vehicle-killed-anzac-asirt-1.4233099