Justice not served for Dafonte Miller as verdict finds officer guilty on only one charge
Ontario Superior Court Judge Joseph Di Luca delivered a verdict today in the case of an off-duty Toronto police officer and his brother, Const. Michael Theriault and Christian Theriault, who were accused of beating Dafonte Miller on December 28, 2016 — and much of the public is already outraged at the result.
The Theriault brothers were originally jointly charged with aggravated assault, and they were each separately charged with obstruction of justice due to how they misrepresented the night's events to investigators. Both of them pleaded not guilty.
In a virtual court proceeding Friday morning, the judge found Michael Theriault guilty of assault, but not aggravated assault. He was also found not guilty of attempting to obstruct justice in connection to the case.
Christian Theriault, meanwhile, was found not guilty on both counts.
we must never forget all that Dafonte has suffered these last three and a half years, and how much his family has also suffered— here for Dafonte (@DesmondCole) June 26, 2020
please support this fundraiser to help Dafonte and his family in their ongoing recovery
Dafonte we love you #HereForDafonte https://t.co/cV58cX4vX5
Before delivering his verdict, Di Luca called Dafonte Miller's injuries "horrific."
"I'm mindful of the need to carefully consider the racialized context from which this case arises," he added.
Police beat DaFonte Miller to the point that he lost an eye. He talks about ongoing trauma from the incident. Policing is never safe for Black people. DaFonte Miller is owed so much.— sané dube (@hello_sane) June 26, 2020
During the court proceeding Friday, which lasted more than four hours, Di Luca went through all the evidence that had been presented in court.
In the end, he said he found credibility issues with the stories presented by both sides.
During the trial, Miller told the court that more than three years ago, in the early hours of the morning, he was walking with his friends in Whitby, Ontario when two men standing in a garage began questioning him.
It's worth noting that the Theriault brothers are white, while Miller is a young Black man who was only 19 at the time.
Miller said the two men started to chase him between homes before they eventually began beating him. He said Michael used a metal pipe, while Christian used his hands and feet.
absolute travesty. these psychopaths knocked Dafonte Miller’s eye out and beat him with a pipe. there is no justice in this slap-on-the-wrist sentence https://t.co/cPv0MDXuqR— Jim Storrie (@JimStorrie) June 26, 2020
He told the court he was beaten so badly that he could no longer feel anything, and he was only truly aware of the severity of his injuries when he saw the blood on the ground.
He testified in court that he was held in a headlock by one of the brothers while the other hit him with something hard, but he was eventually able to squirm out of the hold.
He said he then walked to a nearby house in search of help, but the two brothers continued to strike him on the left side of his face.
At one point, Miller claimed he said to Michael and Christian: "You're going to kill me."
Justice Di Luca's decision should have the government answering 3 appalling questions:— Chris Sewrattan (@SewrattanLaw) June 26, 2020
1. Why did the Durham Police listen to Theriault and arrest Dafonte Miller?
2. What involvement did Theriault's father have in silencing the investigation of his sons?
3. Who else conspired? 5/
According to Miller's lawyers, his left eye was entirely dislodged and split into four, leading him to lose his ability to see out of this eye entirely and he also had trouble seeing out of his right eye. He also suffered injuries including a broken orbital bone, bruised ribs, broken nose and a fractured wrist.
In the weeks following the incident, he said he suffered from excruciating pain all over his body.
His lawyers have also previously stated that the incident appeared to be racially motivated.
It’s taken more than three years to get here and the reading of the verdict was gutwretching. All my strength and kind thoughts to the Dafonte Miller and his family.— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) June 26, 2020
During the trial, the Theriault brothers accused Miller and his friends of breaking into several cars on the street and claimed he lied on the stand, though prosecutors pointed out that even if he had been doing this, it would still be no excuse for the assault that ensued.
Meanwhile, as the judge delivered his verdict virtually, a group of activists gathered outside the Oshawa courthouse in support of Miller.
Supporters of Dafonte Miller stand outside the Oshawa court, awaiting the verdict.— Faiza Amin (@Faiza_AminTV) June 26, 2020
Miller, who was 19 at the time, was left blinded in one eye following the 2016 beating.
(Photo cred: Bryan Carey, CityNews) pic.twitter.com/oWL8ojpG4U
Individuals wore shirts and held signs with the words "Justice for Dafonte Miller," and organizers chanted different words of support for the young man.
This news comes at a time when police brutality and systemic racism are under intense scrutiny following the death of George Floyd and countless others at the hands of white police officers, and this verdict will likely be seen as hugely disappointing for those fighting against this ongoing form of oppression.
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