Following an arrest in the murder of his son, defence lawyer Warren Skinner says he hasn’t budged from his belief that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty.
Police announced on Nov. 7 they had arrested a suspect in Christopher Skinner’s death. The 27-year-old died four years ago after an SUV ran him over near Adelaide and Victoria streets in Toronto where he stood hailing a cab.
Police believe the victim may have brushed the SUV with his arm before he was beaten and intentionally run over by the vehicle. He died in hospital shortly after the incident.
Police now allege Agustin Caruso, 23, was behind the wheel that night. He’s facing second-degree murder charges.
When police recently made arrangements to visit the family home, they knew “something was up,” according to Skinner.
“We expected the news to be what it was because that’s the first that time they made arrangements to come to our house since they were at our house when Christopher died. So we knew something was up,” says Skinner a lawyer in Newmarket, Ont.
“We were happy about the information,” he adds.
“It’s not that we jumped up and down and hit the ceiling. You know, it was just a sense of some relief and some happiness. But it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let’s have a party.’”
Even in light of the difficult ordeal, Skinner says he hasn’t waivered from the principle that accused people deserve the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair hearing.
“In all fairness, I’m trying to be the guy that I am and I was trained to be,” he says.
“Guy Paul Morin was not guilty and he spent a long time in jail. So the question is not whether the system will work because it will work [even] if he’s not found guilty. It doesn’t mean it didn’t work.”
After more than 25 years of law practice, Skinner says he’s confident the justice system will do what’s right but he takes offence to the suggestion he wants the court to find Caruso guilty.
“It’s not about whether the system will do justice; it’s about whether it will do justice if it has the right guy,” he says.
“There has to be some fairness for people [accused of a crime]. I think we’ve got a decent case, but you never know. Just because somebody is arrested, it doesn’t mean it’s the right guy. I mean, I hope it is, but boy oh boy, I think to make that conclusion is wrong. I think it’s unfair to him and our concept of how the system works.”
He adds: “I’m confident that the system will work the way it’s supposed to work.”
Losing a son to a criminal act hasn’t had an impact on the way he views his role as a defence lawyer, Skinner notes.
“I get hired by somebody to do defence work. I got to do my work,” he says.
In fact, just three months after his son died, he acted in a serious sexual assault case.
“You know, it was tough, but [I] still did the job and the matter ended up being withdrawn because the evidence was so bad.”
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Update, Nov. 18, 2013: On Friday, police announced they had charged three more people in the case: Nicholas Swaby, 23, for assault causing bodily harm; Anthony Samuel, 24, for conspiracy to commit the indictable offence of aggravated assault and obstruct police; and Jamaal Phillips Bond, 23, for assault causing bodily harm and obstruct police.