In the Media – Murder Charges

Toronto Star Articles

Juror alleges she was coerced into murder verdict in Christopher Lewis trial

January 15, 2012 edition of The Toronto Star, by Betsy Powell

A lawyer is taking the relatively rare step Monday of asking a judge to investigate a woman’s claims she was coerced by fellow jurors into convicting a man of second-degree murder.

The issue is a tricky one for the justice system because it is a criminal offence for anyone to disclose what took place behind the closed doors of a jury room.

“She can’t necessarily articulate it without the possibility of being prosecuted,” says Leora Shemesh, the defence lawyer representing the woman.

Shemesh is asking the trial judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice David McCombs, to conduct a “judicial inquiry” into the woman’s allegation.

Prosecutor Andrew Sabbadini has already indicated in court the Crown’s initial position is that McCombs does not have jurisdiction to explore the issue because the case has ended.

In December, after a two-week trial, the jury deliberated for about 24 hours before finding Christopher Lewis guilty of second-degree murder. He had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

On the evening of Dec. 16., the jury found Lewis guilty of killing Kerlon Charles on Feb. 28, 2005 in a vacant apartment at Bathurst St. near Steeles Ave. W.

The Crown alleged Charles was lured to the apartment by a group of men and shot 11 times.

In 2007, two men were sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter in his death. They admitted they beat Charles with a pool cue and other weapons but denied shooting him.

A day after the verdict, one of the jurors contacted defence lawyer Don McLeod to say she did not go along with the others voluntarily.

McLeod told her to seek independent legal advice and she retained Shemesh.

During the deliberations, the jury did not at any point indicate it was deadlocked and asked only to hear a “read back” of a key witness’s testimony.

To ensure juror unanimity, jurors are often individually polled to ask if he or she agrees with the verdict. That was done in this case and the woman did not voice an objection.

In 2006, Lewis was charged with killing Jermaine Osbourne as he walked in St. Lawrence Market.

But the Crown elected not to proceed and the charges against Lewis were dropped. In April 2010, he was arrested and charged with shooting Charles after a witness in a Toronto police gang project gave a statement to police implicating Lewis. He was a key witness at last month’s trial.