Dead bullied boy's testimony sets precedent: dad
Published Tuesday, February 14, 2012 8:50AM EST
An Ontario father on an anti-bullying crusade since his son committed suicide hopes the decision to allow the boy's testimony in court sets the stage for future bullying cases in Canada.
Mitchell Wilson, an 11-year-old from Pickering, Ont., had been subpoenaed to testify against a boy accused of attacking and robbing him. But a day after receiving the subpoena last September, he committed suicide.
Father Craig Wilson said his son, who had muscular dystrophy, had been terrified of having to testify against the accused boy, who is charged with robbery and assault causing bodily harm.
Without Wilson to testify, there had been concerns the Crown would have to drop the case. But on Monday a judge ruled that statements that Wilson gave to police, and to his stepmother, Tiffany Usher, could be entered into evidence.
"This could happen somewhere else where the same situation has happened. It sets precedent so that (alleged) criminal will not just walk free. It is groundbreaking," Craig Wilson told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday.
Wilson said he was grateful Justice Mary Theresa Devlin allowed his son to be heard. While the defence argued that the testimony should not be allowed because he could not be cross-examined, Devlin ruled that Mitchell Wilson's statements about the attack were credible.
In the statements, Mitchell identifies the 13-year-old as one of the two boys who jumped and robbed him of his dad's iPhone while he was out walking in his neighbourhood in November, 2010.
One of the officers who took a statement from Wilson has already testified that he identified the boy out of class photos and told him he was "100 per cent" certain he'd picked the right suspect.
In one statement, Wilson says he and his mother ran into the accused at school.
The accused "looked at me and then looked at my mom and went the other way," Wilson said. "We went into the office and I told my mom (he robbed me.)"
It is unusual for the Crown to use "hearsay" statements from a witness who can't testify and can't be cross-examined.
But Justice Devlin concluded the Crown established on a balance of probabilities that the statements can be admitted under a "principled exception to the hearsay rule."
Although the judge has accepted the statement into evidence, that does not mean that she accepts the statement to be true.
Wilson killed himself on Sept. 6, 2011, the day he was set to return to school after summer break.
His family told the court last November that Mitchell never recovered psychologically from the assault and regularly suffered from anxiety attacks.
Wilson hung himself by tying a plastic bag around his neck.