At the risk of seeming a tad obsessed about James Forcillo, I feel compelled to do yet another post on him and Sammy Yatim, the troubled teen he recklessly and needlessly gunned down three years ago.
We all know there is a great deal of injustice in the world, the bulk of which is not open to easy resolution. Sometimes all we can do is bear witness to that injustice and the suffering it causes. Although hardly an adequate response, a small gesture at best, it is, in my view, better than silence.
First, on the fact that Forcillo has been granted bail due to his pending appeal, this is what Justice Eileen Gillese had to say about releasing the criminal officer:
“Despite the seriousness of the offence for which the Appellant stands convicted,” she wrote, “in my view, fully informed members of the community will objectively understand and accept that it is not contrary to the public interest that he be released.”The fact that he will now be under house arrest pending his appeal (which begs the question of whether house arrest will constitute 'time served' should his conviction be upheld) is not sitting well with everyone:
Criminal defence and constitutional lawyer Annamaria Enenajor, who wasn’t involved in the case, said there can be a disconnect between what the courts may consider to be supporting public confidence in the justice system and what the public actually feels.Annamaria Enenajor may be reflecting the concerns of the broader community here, but what about those of the Yatim family, who have suffered grievously over the loss of their son and brother?
“As a member of the public, I’m outraged by the conduct of Officer Forcillo but I also I view it in the broader context of police violence and impunity. So my understanding of what diminishes my confidence in the administration of justice might be quite different than that of a judge who is really only dealing only with the case in front of them,” she said.
“The reasonable person, who according to the court who is the holder of the public opinion, is somebody who trusts the police, believes the police implicitly and has confidence in them. And that’s not generally representative of many members of society.”
Nabil Yatim, Sammy's father, speaks of their ongoing trauma:
Yatim, 68, is thoughtful, articulate, reflective, but he struggles to explain the pain of the past three years. “You go through hell and back — how I can describe that more?”But he and his wife are not the only people contending with the aftermath of Sammy's death. Sammy's sister, two years younger than her brother, has undergone trauma that I think few of us can fully appreciate:
Immediately after getting the news of his son’s death while on a business trip in the U.S., Yatim, a retail management consultant, says he took things hour by hour, day by day. He became a “hermit,” never wanting to go out, avoiding family and friends, because the subject was always the same.
“You’ve been thinking about it all day and all night, the last thing you want to do is talk about it some more, so you become isolated,” he said. “And you just kind of nurse your wounds, in a sense. It was horrible. It still is.”
Harder still is the public nature of the family’s grief. Sammy’s death and the unprecedented conviction of a police officer for attempted murder have made international headlines. Yatim finds himself reluctant to introduce himself to strangers, knowing his name will prompt questions — are you related to Sammy?
“People are so nice, and they mean well, but sometimes you just don’t want to open up (your) wounds again, every minute of every day.”
With psychiatric help and medication, Yatim says he is at least now able to sleep. “I have a little bit more strength than I thought,” he said.
In the hours after Sammy’s death, it was Sarah, then 16, who had to identify her brother’s body. She is “traumatized,” and has dropped out of school. “I am very concerned about her,” Yatim said.The other day, in speaking on the conviction of Forcillo, Mike McCormick, head of the Toronto police union, said,
He is trying to get her professional help, even check her into a residence program to treat post-traumatic stress, but the family can’t afford it, Yatim said.
“This is a tragic day for the Forcillo family, the Yatim family - there will never be any good outcome from this, it's tragic all around.”That may well be, but perhaps Nabil Yatim's pained observation about Forcillo sums up a stark reality that puts things into a truer perpesctive:
“He gets to go home. My son sleeps in an urn.”