Jubilation and dismay blended in a courtroom at Old City Hall yesterday as one teenager charged with manslaughter in the notorious Jane Creba shooting 22 months ago was exonerated while another was committed to trial.
"I thank God this has happened, He's watching over us and I prayed for this," said the mother of an 18-year-old whose manslaughter charge was dismissed by Mr. Justice Peter Harris of the Ontario Court of Justice, following a six-week preliminary hearing that wrapped up last month.
Standing with his client outside the courthouse in bright sunshine, defence lawyer Sal Caramanna also hailed the judge's ruling, which he described as "a very, very considered decision."
But there was no such relief for the other accused, aged 19, who will now stand trial along with eight other young men charged with murder or manslaughter in the wild Yonge Street shootout on Boxing Day, 2005, that killed Ms. Creba, 15, and left six other people wounded.
Free on bail, the second teen donned dark glasses and a black tuque and slipped out of the building with his grandmother, who appeared close to tears.
Neither teen can be identified because both were under 18 when arrested in June, 2006, as part of a sweeping series of wiretap-driven police raids that netted 25 suspects on a variety of criminal charges, many of them unrelated to the Creba shooting.
Also in place is the usual publication ban on evidence aired during a preliminary hearing.
Mr. Caramanna, however, did note that "it's a very low threshold to send someone to trial from a preliminary inquiry and it wasn't met. ... So the case against my client was very weak."
Prosecutors declined comment.
Occurring near the end of a year in which Toronto's gun homicides reached a record 52, Ms. Creba's death became a metaphor for violence between gangland rivals.
It also generated a tangle of charges.
Three adults - Tyshaun Barnett, 20, Louis Raphael Woodcock, 20, and Jeremiah Valentine, 25 - each face a charge of second-degree murder, together with six counts of attempted murder.
So too, along with nine firearms offences, does a 19-year-old whose identity is also protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and who in August became the first of the accused to be sent to trial.
Charged with manslaughter, meanwhile, are Andre Thompson, 23, his brother Shaun Thompson, 22, Vincent Davis, 26, and Andrew Smith, 22. The seven accused adults are in the midst of their own on-again, off-again preliminary hearing.
Held for close to a month at the Hamilton County Juvenile Court Youth Centre before he obtained bail, and under house arrest ever since, Mr. Caramanna's client has had "a very difficult time dealing with this," the lawyer said.
The teen's next step will be to complete high school, Mr. Caramanna said, acknowledging that he could yet have to testify for either prosecution or defence in a future court proceeding.
For now, Mr. Caramanna said, "He's gratified, he's pleased, he's going to move on with his life."
Earlier this week, the Creba case generated more headlines when 21-year-old Eric Boateng, one of the 25 suspects rounded up last year and subsequently convicted on a cocaine-trafficking charge, was shot dead outside Toronto's Don Jail after visiting a friend.
Homicide detectives probing Mr. Boateng's death have given no indication it is connected to the charges laid in Ms. Creba's death.