The COVID pandemic has provided an unintended consequence and in this instance a positive one. Whether you agree with Mr. Justice Dan Di Luca’s conclusions or not, the streaming on social media of his decision in the case of Michael and Christian Theriault was a great step forward for the judicial system in Ontario. It took Di Luca more than four hours to read his decision and it provided an instructive look at how judicial decisions are arrived at. He laid out for all to see the way he sifted through the evidence and displayed his thought processes throughout. In the end he concluded that he was pretty sure the two off-duty Toronto cops intended to extract street justice on Dafonte Miller by beating him to within an inch of his life for rifling their car for spare change. He was also pretty sure they lied in their statements to authorities after the event. But in the end he wasn’t sure beyond a reasonable doubt and the only thing he could be sure about was that Michael Theriault hit Miller with a pipe after it was clear Miller was fleeing and calling 911 in an effort to save himself—and that was proof of assault. Theriault will still face police charges and its is possible he could go to jail for the assault. His future employment with Toronto Police is in doubt. His brother Christian, while acquitted in court will also face police internal investigation. Our point here is that thousands of people got to see how the judicial system works in real time, and it seems that all of the old arguments against cameras in courts are pretty much gone. The technology is unobtrusive and efficient. Having the cases streamed as opposed to televised reduces the size of the audience—(how many people want to sit through the reading of a four-hour judgment after all) and thus reduces the likelihood of trials turning into circuses. It was COVID that made the streaming of the Theriault decision necessary, but it worked and it helped educate the public. The practice should become the norm. Here is the full decision by Mr. Justice Di Luca.
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