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Majority of Toronto believes Forcillo had a fair trial: Exclusive CityNews poll

Last Updated Jan 26, 2016 at 6:52 am EDT

The majority of Toronto residents believe Const. James Forcillo had a fair trial, according to an exclusive CityNews poll.

“What we see is a crystallization of public opinion on the appropriateness of holding police officers to the same standards as other citizens, and also on the fairness of Constable Forcillo’s trial,” Forum Research president Dr. Lorne Bozinoff said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It appears the guilty verdict for attempted murder has just confirmed what most believed all along, that police officers can be charged with murder, that Constable Forcillo was fairly tried and that it will lead to a positive outcome in the end, apart from Sammy Yatim’s tragic death.”

On Monday, Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder in the 2013 streetcar shooting death of Sammy Yatim. The verdict carries a minimum four-year sentence.

Two-thirds of Toronto residents believe he had a fair trial, the Forum Research poll found. The poll took a random sampling of 549 Toronto voters and found 67 per cent found that Forcillo was able to get a fair trial. However, one-fifth of Toronto voters, or 17 per cent, believe he did not. One-sixth, or 16 per cent, do not have an opinion.

In a separate poll of 561 Toronto adults, Forum found that most Toronto residents also approve of the verdict. Jurors ultimately found that Forcillo was justified in firing the first volley of shots which felled Yatim, but he was guilty when he fired a second series of shots when the teen was already gravely wounded on the floor of the streetcar.

“It is clear that public sentiment was in favour of a guilty verdict, and, in fact, some of those who do not approve of the guilty verdict may be those who wished for a more severe verdict by the jury,” Bozinoff said.

“While more than a half of the city’s residents agree he should have been found guilty of something, more than half think it should have been the more serious charge.”

The poll found that 57 per cent of people surveyed approve of the verdict carrying a minimum jail sentence of four years, 34 per cent of people disapprove and just nine per cent said the don’t know.

The poll found that 49 per cent of people disapproved with Forcillo being found not guilty of second-degree murder, which carries a minimum jail sentence of 10 years with no parole. Thirty-seven per cent approve of this and 15 per cent said they did not know.

Forcillo has been suspended with pay from the Toronto Police Service and the poll found that 38 per cent of people surveyed approve of this; while 51 per cent of people disagree stating he should not be paid. Eleven people said they don’t know.

The margin of error on the polls is plus or minus four per cent, 19 times out of 20

Other poll findings:

Plurality agrees “suicide by cop” defense should not have been presented:

Close to one half, or 46 per cent, of residents agreed that the “suicide by cop” theory put forward by the defense should not have been allowed in court. However, 41 per cent of people think it should have been allowed.

Most think verdict will lead to better policing

Thirty-nine per cent of Toronto residents think the guilty verdict will lead to better policing, while 24 per cent think it will lead to worse policing. One-third, or 32 per cent, think it will make no difference.

Increasing majority approve of charging police with murder

Two years ago, Forum Research asked Toronto residents how they felt about charging police officers with murder for firing their weapon in the line of duty. In August of 2013, 51 per cent of people approved, 25 per cent disapproved, and 24 per cent didn’t know.

Now, those numbers have increased. Sixty per cent of people approve of charging police officers with murder for firing their weapon in the line of duty. Twenty-four per cent disapprove (a very small decrease) and one-sixth of people don’t have an opinion.