An increased police presence outside a downtown Toronto courthouse has been noticeable since the jury began its deliberations Wednesday morning in the murder trial of Constable James Forcillo.
The officer is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder in the July 2013 shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, in a confrontation at a streetcar in the west end of the city. The young man was shot eight times and the entire incident was captured on video from smartphones and security cameras inside the vehicle.
Police vehicles, including a video surveillance truck, are parked near the Superior Court building. There is also an increase in the number of uniformed officers in the area.
There was also a special Toronto police security detail inside the courtroom, in addition to the normal court officers responsible for security.
At least two and often three officers sat behind Constable Forcillo's wife in the public gallery during the three-month trial. The officers were not in uniform. But they would wait until other members of the public left the courtroom and then escort Constable Forcillo out during breaks in the proceedings. He would also be accompanied to a waiting SUV just outside the courthouse to be driven to and from the trial.
A spokeswoman for the Toronto police declined to disclose why it believes the security detail was necessary. "Toronto police does provide on-duty personnel, where necessary, to assist with security for cases and/or individuals going through the court system. We will not provide our reasons for doing so," said spokeswoman Meaghan Gray.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, which represents rank-and-file members, said that while it is uncommon, it is appropriate to have the extra security. "This is not your normal trial. It is a very emotional case," he said. Constable Forcillo and his wife have previously been subjected to threats, said Mr. McCormack, although he is not aware of any arrests being made as a result.
There were protests in Toronto streets in the days after the shooting of Mr. Yatim. During the trial, the only known occasion where there was a potential disruption was when a spectator in the public gallery conspicuously took off a sweatshirt, to reveal a T-shirt with the slogan "keep calm and film police." The spectator left the public gallery a few minutes later and was not permitted to return to the courtroom.
The 11 members of the jury (one juror was excused last month) were provided with some brief clarifications Thursday morning by Superior Court Justice Edward Then, regarding his legal instructions earlier this week. They then resumed deliberations.
Constable Forcillo is the first officer in 16 years to go on trial on a charge of murder in Canada for a shooting in the line of duty. No police officer has ever been convicted of murder in the death of a civilian in the line of duty.