profile image

Steven Skurka

Legal Affairs Blogger

The Sexual Assault Trial of a 'Coronation Street' Actor

Michael Le Vell, an actor in the venerable British soap opera, Coronation Street, has been cleared by a jury of raping and sexually assaulting a teenage girl. The trial generated immense interest in England and was widely covered by the British media.
09/15/2013 11:45 EDT
Movember Canada

Sammy Yatim Shooting: The Cop's Murder Charge, Explained

Toronto Police Const. James Forcillo, the cop who allegedly shot 18-year-old Sammy Yatim nine times, was charged Monday with second-degree murder in Yatim's death. Since the Special Investigations Unit's inception in 1990, Forcillo is the 11th officer in Ontario to be charged with second-degree murder or manslaughter. The unique case is prompting a lot of questions. For example, "It is rare that a police officer in the course of his duties is charged with second-degree murder. Is this a case of overcharging by the SIU to appease public opinion?" Here are answers to that and other questions.
08/20/2013 09:03 EDT
Shutterstock

Police Using Lethal Force in Toronto: It's Happened Before

In 1981, I co-authored an article titled: ''Police Use of Lethal Force: A Toronto Perspective." Our examination revealed that the majority of the lethal police shootings were confrontation situations of clear legal justification by the police. However, five of the cases raised issues about police tactics and training for armed operations.
08/12/2013 05:29 EDT
AP

Day 14 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Defence Closing and Rebuttal

If the jurors are persuaded by the prosecutor's cold image of the George Zimmerman as Lady Macbeth with blood permanently staining his hands, they will find him guilty of manslaughter. If the jurors follow the law relating to self-defence, their verdict will be not guilty.
07/13/2013 02:48 EDT
Getty

Day 13 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Prosecution's Closing Argument

''A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own. He is dead because another man made assumptions... and unfortunately, because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this earth.'' This simple statement is the state's most compelling argument for a manslaughter conviction. An innocent teenager died and Zimmerman was his killer as the result of his flawed perceptions and negligent conduct.
07/12/2013 12:14 EDT
AP

Day 12 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Defence Rests

Trayvon Martin's parents made a gracious public plea for a non-violent response through their lawyer urging everyone ''not to take the law into their own hands.'' The sequestered jury will begin its deliberations on Friday afternoon and a verdict should be reached by the weekend.
07/11/2013 12:33 EDT
Getty

Day 11 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Case for the Defence

The Broward County Sheriff's Office announced that it was working closely with the Sanford Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies to implement "a response plan in anticipation of the verdict." I predict that there will be peaceful protests but not a calamitous reaction to the jury's not guilty verdict.
07/10/2013 12:11 EDT
AP

Day 10 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Case for the Defence

In a bold and virtually unprecedented move by the defence, Tracy Martin was called to testify. His evidence was preceded by two Sanford police officers, including the lead investigator, who confirmed that in the days following his teenage son's death, Tracy Martin was unable to identify the voice on the 911 call crying for help. Martin contested the officers' testimony stating that ''I never said it wasn't my son's voice.'' He later concluded that it was his son after listening to the call ''as many as 20 times.''
07/09/2013 08:37 EDT
AP

Day 9 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Defence Case Begins

The ninth day of the second degree murder trial of George Zimmerman was marked by the prosecution closing its case and the first couple of witnesses being called by the defence. The following are six take away points from Day 9.
07/07/2013 10:24 EDT
AP

Day 8 of the Zimmerman Trial: The Blundering Prosecution

The prosecution's case has been marked by a parade of errors. It started with overreaching and charging George Zimmerman with second-degree murder. The charge requires evidence of hatred, spite or evil intent and the evidence in the case fell woefully short of that standard. The only possible charge left for the jury to consider is manslaughter.
07/04/2013 12:33 EDT
Getty

Zimmerman Trial, Day 7: Murder or Self Defense?

Dr. Valerie Row, a medical examiner who reviewed the photographs and records of the injuries to George Zimmerman testified that his injuries were insignificant and that they were consistent with "one strike, two injuries at one time.''
07/03/2013 02:39 EDT
AP

Day 6 of the Zimmerman Trial: Murder or Self-Defence?

The jury has George Zimmerman's complete legal defence presented in his own words. The prosecution introduced four statements Zimmerman provided to the police after the fatal shooting incident. In his statements, Zimmerman described yelling for help as the person (later identified as Trayvon Martin) was ''whaling on my head.'' He placed his hands on Zimmerman's nose and told him that ''you're going to die tonight.'' Zimmerman thought that his assailant was going for his gun and shot him one time.
07/02/2013 08:32 EDT
AP

How George Zimmerman Might Have Won the Trial on Day 5

I believe the fifth day of the George Zimmerman murder trial will be revisited after the trial finishes as the day that Zimmerman secured a not guilty verdict. Here are the six key factors that emerged from the evidence on Day 5.
06/30/2013 11:11 EDT
AP

6 Take-Aways From Day 1 of the George Zimmerman Trial

On the morning of the first day of the Zimmerman trial, CNN released a poll that showed that 62% of the respondents polled maintained that the charges against George Zimmerman are probably or certainly true. If all of the six jurors in the Zimmerman trial find that his charge is probably true, he will be acquitted. The following six take-aways emerged from day 1 of the Zimmerman trial:
06/25/2013 02:39 EDT
Getty

6 Reasons George Zimmerman Will Go Free

Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder. There isn't a credible prosecution theory to support the charge, which requires proof of a depraved mind showing no regard for human life. It is an untenable and unrealistic position that damages the entire prosecution case.
06/23/2013 11:28 EDT
Getty

Why Jury Selection for George Zimmerman Is Taking So Long

After one week of jury selection in the George Zimmerman murder trial in central Florida, there are still no jurors. In a comparative case in Canada, the jury selection process would be fundamentally different. In highly charged murder trials with widespread publicity involving such notorious defendants as Paul Bernardo and Michael Rafferty juries comprised of 12 jurors were chosen in a matter of a few days.
06/17/2013 05:32 EDT
Alamy

Canada's Prostitution Laws Are Back at the Supreme Court

This week the Supreme Court of Canada will hear a landmark appeal in the case of Terri Jean Bedford that challenges the constitutional validity of the sexual solicitation and bawdy house laws. The court will also consider whether the criminal offence of living on the avails of prostitution should be limited to situations of exploitative conduct.
06/09/2013 11:37 EDT
Getty Images

What Brian Burke's Defamation Lawsuit Means For Social Networks

Why would Brian Burke, the former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, launch a defamation lawsuit against a group of seventeen obscure commentators who gossiped online about lurid details of his personal life? The case may serve to showcase the new reality of how online comments are handled in the legal system.
05/30/2013 03:36 EDT
Getty Images

Why Rob Ford Blamed His Lawyer

Why didn't the mayor issue his denial sooner? He had never demonstrated any reluctance to defiantly challenge his accusers in the past. The mayor is a pitbull, not a puppy. At his press conference, Rob Ford revealed the reason for his silence: ''For the past week, on the advice of my solicitors, I was advised not to say a word.''
05/28/2013 12:18 EDT