Two men acquitted in 2007 Jane-Finch murder
Published Friday, June 26, 2009 5:40PM EDT
A jury has acquitted two Toronto men in the 2007 murder of Allan Benn in a northwest Toronto housing complex, leaving a courtroom awash in emotion.
Shaun Blake and Mackel Peterkin, both 20, had faced charges of first-degree murder.
"Thank you Jesus!" shouted Peterkin's mother on Friday after the jury filed out. "This is what happens when you pray!"
Family members of both mean wept and danced for joy.
"I'm speechless ... I have no words," Blake said as he walked out of the courthouse into the warm sunshine.
"The justice system worked," Peterkin said.
"This is an extremely weak case that should never have been prosecuted in the first place," said defence lawyer Daniel Brown.
Two young offenders were also charged in connection with the killing of Benn. They will be tried separately in youth court this fall. Provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act prevent them from being named.
The Crown had argued during the trial that the accused killed Benn for "snitching" because he had warned a man who had won $1 million in a lottery that he might be a target for robbery if he returned to the neighbourhood.
Eventually, the robbery did happen.
Benn lived with his family in the Jane and Finch area.
Security footage from April 2, 2007 -- the day Benn died -- showed the victim walking towards a youth, then following that person out of camera range.
Blake and Peterkin were evident in some of the video footage.
Less than five minutes later, Benn comes back into view and falls down.
The Crown had argued that one youth actually did the stabbing, with the other three helping him carry out the attack.
The defence argued that the Crown had failed to provide enough evidence against Blake and Peterkin.
Det.-Sgt. Frank Skubic, the lead homicide investigator on the case, acknowledged that the evidence at trial was largely circumstantial but maintained there was adequate grounds to lay the charges in the first place.
"I respect the decison of the jury. They gave careful consideration and rendered the appropriate verdict," Skubic said.
The veteran officer added that Allen Benn's father was made aware of the verdict and was "very disappointed." The family reportedly couldn't bear the emotional strain of attending court.
With files from CTV Toronto's Chris Eby