Crown, defence spar over beating of Whitby teen Dafonte Miller

Michael Theriault (right) and his brother Christian (left) walk to Oshawa court in this file photo from Nov. 2019. Photo credit: Liam David

Defence lawyers delivered an impassioned attack on the Crown’s case against Michael and Christian Theriault to a packed Oshawa courtroom today.

Michael Theriault, a Toronto police officer who is now suspended, and his brother Christian, are accused of beating teenager Dafonte Miller on Erickson Drive in Whitby in December, 2016, badly enough for Miller to lose his left eye.

The Theriault brothers have been charged with aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

Much of the courtroom debate centred on the credibility of those involved.

Michael Theriault’s lawyer, Michael Lacy, began proceedings by attacking Miller’s story. He claimed Miller lied about the events leading to his alleged assault.

Lacy alleged Miller twisted his story to paint himself in a better light, saying the Theriault brothers caught Miller “car-hopping”, or stealing from unlocked vehicles. Miller refuted this in his earlier testimony, saying he was harassed by the Theriaults while on his way to a friend’s house.

As Lacy put it, Miller’s story is he was “attacked for no other reason than being a young black man,” and, “if that narrative is true, [the Theriaults] should be convicted.”

However, Alan Gold, lawyer for Christian Theriault, characterized Miller as “…a perjurer. He was part of a conspiracy to commit perjury,” because of inconsistencies in Miller’s story. Lacy and Gold asserted the alleged assault was a justifiable case of self-defence and attempted arrest.

Attendees, many wearing shirts emblazoned with, “Justice for Dafonte,” with Miller’s picture, were displeased with this argument. Gasps were heard and heads shook.

Crown attorneys Peter Scrutton and Linda Shin disputed the assertions of the defence.

Shin, whose address focused on the alleged assault, explained these inconsistencies as a result of a mind in shock.

They asserted there was no other explanation then Micheal Theriault bringing the pipe from his garage when he started to chase Miller. Shin cited common sense and Theriault’s police training saying, “of course he armed himself.”

They cited three witnesses who saw Michael Theriault with the pipe during the pursuit to the alley between houses in which the incident happened. Miller’s blood was found on the pipe, court was told. There is also a scratch on the front door of the home in front of which the incident took place, court heard. Shin argued that only someone swinging the pipe could have caused it.

Much of Shin’s argument focused on blood analysis. She insisted that no blood was found in the side yard. Much of it was found at the doorway of a neighboring home where, the Crown alleges, the assault continued.

The Crown did not bring in a blood spatter analyst to examine this, Shin said.

“This blood analysis does not require expert testimony. We aren’t arguing blood spatter, only it’s presence.” The defense attacked the lack of expert testimony.

Scrutton’s address focused on the obstruction charge.

This produced concern from Ontario Superior Court Justice Joseph Di Luca surrounding the efficacy of the evidence given to support this charge.

Much of the Crown’s evidence for this charge is based on what Scrutton called “coordinated omission” of the pipe’s use and origin, something case law has made difficult to prove, and Michael Theriault’s admission he threw the pipe away before police arrived.

Justice Di Luca is expected to deliver his verdict April 8.