Saturday, January 30, 2016

No more presumption of innocence for police

When the lawyer for Const. James Forcillo said this week that he had unsuccessfully applied to get a judge-alone murder trial for his client, it raised an obvious question:

Had public trust in police eroded to the point where juries — once believed to always find in favour of cops — would actually convict an officer for a shooting while on the job?

“If this was 10 years ago, no defence counsel would ever have sought to get away from a jury when a police officer was their client,” said criminal defence lawyer Edward Prutschi. “Police officers used to be the only group who would benefit from a genuine presumption of innocence in the minds of jurors. Now they seem just like the rest of us in court.

“It’s an opportunity police have squandered, and I don’t think they have that presumption of innocence anymore.”

The sacred trust the public places in its police officers — entrusted with upholding the law and authorized to use deadly force when deemed necessary — has been called into question in recent years across North America, especially in light of a spate of shooting deaths of unarmed black men south of the border.  (more...)

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