Human Studies

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 121–135 | Cite as

The Documentary Method of [Video] Interpretation: A Paradoxical Verdict in a Police-Involved Shooting and Its Consequences for Understanding Crime on Camera

  • Patrick G. Watson
Empirical Study / Analysis


On July 27th, 2013, Sammy Yatim was shot and killed by Toronto Police Services’ Constable James Forcillo during a verbal confrontation on a streetcar as Yatim brandished a switchblade knife. Forcillo was charged, initially with second degree murder, and later attempted murder—a decision that confused media commentators as attempted murder is a lesser-and-included offense to second degree murder in Canadian law. In January 2016, Forcillo was found not guilty of second degree murder and guilty of attempted murder. Video evidence, recovered from the streetcar’s onboard security cameras, was described by the presiding judge, Justice Edward Then, as proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Forcillo’s testimony was unreliable, especially in light of other evidence. This paper examines the use of video evidence to arrive at a ‘compromise verdict’ (Gillis in ‘Compromise’ verdict in James Forcillo trial gets mixed reaction. Toronto Star, 25 January, 2016) and the paradox of being convicted of attempting to murder someone who was killed.


Video Evidence Perception Socio-legal studies Police-involved shootings Ethnomethodology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CriminologyWilfrid Laurier UniversityBrantfordCanada

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