A judge in Oshawa, Ontario will deliver his judgement on April 9 in the case of a Toronto police officer and his brother who are accused of assaulting a young black man who lost an eye after he was severely beaten in Whitby in December 2016.
Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers made their closing arguments last week to Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca in the high-profile, judge-only trial of Michael Theriault and Christian Theriault.
The brothers are jointly charged with aggravated assault against Dafonte Miller. They are also charged with obstruction of justice for misleading investigators.
Miller testified that he was walking with friends in a residential Whitby neighbourhood when he encountered the Theriault brothers, who demanded to know where they lived and what they were doing.
They then chased him and proceeded to punch, kick and beat him with a metal pipe, he said.
But Michael Theriault testified that he and his brother caught Miller and a friend attempting to break into their father’s truck and chased him. He said Miller struck them with a pipe and they hit him in self-defence while trying to disarm him.
At the trial, evidence was also given by Durham Regional Police officers who attended the scene, a homeowner who witnessed part of the altercation and called 911 and two men Miller was with on the night in question, among others.
The court was told that when police responded to the scene that morning, an officer arrested Miller for allegedly breaking into the Theriaults’ father’s vehicle and allowed Michael Theriault, who was holding down Mr. Miller at the time on the driveway, to handcuff Mr. Miller. After Miller was taken to hospital, the Theriaults were questioned about what happened.
But a few months later, all charges against Miller were dropped and the Theriault brothers were charged.
In his closing arguments, defence lawyer Michael Lacy characterized Mr. Miller as “a perjurer.” He pointed to inconsistencies in what Miller told investigators, what he testified during the preliminary hearing and then what he said from the witness box.. He also pointed out that other Crown witnesses – in particular, one of the men who was with Miller the night of the altercation – presented evidence that supported Michael Theriault’s story: that Miller and his friends were entering unlocked vehicles that evening to steal valuables.
But in the Crown’s closing arguments, prosecutor Linda Shin argued that it didn’t matter whether the judge believed the reason Miller was on the street that night – there was independent evidence that backed up Miller’s account.
The front door of a house where Miller sought help in the midst of his beating was stained with blood, as was the ground in front of it where he stood, which Shin said is evidence of Miller being struck in the face with the pipe, which caused the injury to his eye.
“A retreating Dafonte Miller was the victim of a vicious, two-on-one assault by Michael and Christian Theriault that left him with life-altering injuries,” Shin said.
The case has attracted national attention and has sparked discussions about violent confrontations between police and Black people.