Four suspects in the 2005 Boxing Day shooting death of Jane Creba have had manslaughter charges effectively dropped against them -- and one lawyer said they should have never been laid in the first place.

"They didn't do anything either legally or morally wrong, and there was never any evidence" to that effect, David Midanik told CTV Toronto on Monday outside the University Avenue courthouse.

The Crown said in court that a recent pre-trial ruling made the prospect of obtaining a conviction against the four unlikely.

CTV Toronto's Chris Eby said the details of what happened can't be revealed because of a publication ban on pre-trial proceedings. But technically, what happened is the Crown filed a new indictment but didn't call evidence against the men, causing the judge to issue an acquittal.

However, under this scenario, the Crown preserves its right to appeal the pre-trial ruling, Eby said.

The men are:

  • Andrew Smith
  • Vincent Davis
  • Andre Thompson
  • Shaun Thompson

Three of the four have been in custody since their arrest in June 2006. Eby said there some unrelated pending charges against the three.

Lawyers for the Thompsons, who are brothers, said their clients are looking forward to getting on with their lives.

"My client, Andre Thompson, has been in custody 47 months," said lawyer Robert Chartier. "This is a vindication for him. He feels horrible for what happened to Ms. Creba, but he has maintained his innocence since day one."

Shaun Thompson has been out on bail. Lawyer Steven Stauffer said his client is sorry for the tragedy, "he has never done anything wrong."

Midanik said the Crown should have stopped the manslaughter prosecution against the four "a long time ago."

Manslaughter charges remain against G.C., a young offender.

Second-degree murder charges remain against three others:

  • Jeremiah Valentine
  • Louis Raphael Woodcock
  • Tyshaun Barrett

The shooting occurred on Dec. 26, 2005 outside a Foot Locker store on Yonge Street north of the Eaton Centre. Creba was out on a Boxing Day shopping excursion with her sister when she went to find a washroom at a Pizza Pizza.

At the same time, two groups of thugs squared off. Firearms were produced and shots fired. A bullet struck Creba. Other bystanders were wounded, along with some of the thugs.

One person has been convicted so far: Jorrell Simpson-Rowe. Justice Ian Nordheimer gave Simpson-Row, who was a young offender at the time of the incident, an adult sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years after a jury found the man of second-degree murder.

Creba is white, and the suspects are black.

"The scope of the prosecution was, I believe, in large measure engendered by the colour of the defendants and the colour of the victim," Midanik said.

Police and politicians both over-reacted in this case, "creating other tragedies," he said, adding, "the scope of what happened is just not as great as what's portrayed in the media."

However, Gordon Cudjoe, Davis's lawyer, had a different view.

"What we have to remember is the whole city was in shock," said Cudjoe, who is black. "Unfortunately, they should have been looked at individually for what they did that day."

He also added this perspective: "It's Yonge Street. It's Boxing Day. We all go there."

The Creba murder came at the end of what was known as the Year of the Gun. Creba became Toronto's 78th homicide victim of the year. Fifty-two people met violent ends as a result of gunfire.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Chris Eby