Mistrial In Queen's Park Riot Case

May 11, 2003 02:14 PM The Toronto Star

FROM CANADIAN PRESS

Five days of emotionally draining, unsuccessful jury deliberations led to a
mistrial today in the trial of three anti-poverty activists charged after a
violent protest at the Ontario Legislature in 2000.

John Clarke, head of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, said he was
"enormously happy" with the decision but added the fight could continue
since the Crown hasn't decided yet whether it will seek a retrial. He said
the court costs associated with a retrial would be better spent on social
issues.

"If they're going to be spending hundreds and hundreds of thousands of
dollars, it shouldn't be into prosecutions of OCAP members," Clarke said.
"It should be into creating solutions for homelessness in this province and
building housing."

Clarke, 48, pleaded not guilty to charges of counselling participation in a
riot and counselling to assault police. He was charged along with Gaetan
Heroux, 47, and Stefan Pilipa, 27, who both pleaded not guilty to one charge
each of participating in a riot.

The trio were charged after a bloody clash at Queen's Park on June 15, 2000,
which left dozens of demonstrators and as many as 42 officers and nine
police horses injured.

Superior Court Justice Lee Ferrier had denied an initial request by defence
attorneys for a mistrial on Saturday, after jurors said they were frustrated
and exhausted after deliberations took a physical and mental toll.

They said they were unable to reach a unanimous decision on whether the
protest "developed into a riot" and added they were deadlocked - nine jurors
versus three - on the definition of "force."

"We are frustrated, exhausted and extremely emotionally upset, resulting in
the hospital visit of one juror, a panic attack of another, migraine
headaches and emotional outbursts amongst the group," the jurors' letter
read.

"This doesn't seem like a jury in shape to continue this trial and render a
verdict at an appropriate time," defence attorney Peter Rosenthal said
outside court on Saturday.

The Crown said Sunday there are several factors it will consider before
deciding if a retrial is appropriate, adding a decision should be made by
June 18.

Clarke said that regardless of the Crown's decision, OCAP will go on
protesting and fighting for its causes.

"We will continue ... to organize against the real violence and horror going
on in this province, which is poverty and homelessness and misery," he said.
"We're going to continue to fight back, and they can take that to the bank."