TORONTO — A man accused in the death of a Toronto police officer is seeking to partially lift a publication ban on his case in order to address what his lawyer has called a “misleading” narrative.
Umar Zameer has been charged with first-degree murder for the death of Const. Jeffrey Northrup.
The 55-year-old officer died on July 2 after being struck by a vehicle as he was responding to a report of a robbery in a parking lot at Toronto City Hall.
Justice Jill Copeland granted Zameer bail in September but the reasons for her decision and evidence presented in court are covered by a standard publication ban, which the defence had requested.
Zameer’s lawyer says comments made about the case by police and politicians, including Premier Doug Ford, have jeopardized his client’s fair trial rights.
Nader Hasan says the publication ban should now be altered to allow certain portions of the judge’s decision to be made public.
“What we’re seeking is an order that in essence acts as a corrective to ensure the improper, misleading narrative doesn’t interfere down the road with Mr. Zameer’s fair trial rights,” Hasan said at a court hearing on Thursday.
The defence has taken issue with what Toronto’s police chief has said about the case, as well as comments by the premier and other politicians when Zameer was granted bail.
Toronto Police Chief James Ramer called Northrup’s death an “intentional and deliberate act” at a news conference the day the officer died. He also said Northrup and his partner were dressed in plainclothes with badges around their necks as they responded to a report of a robbery.
On Sept. 22, not long after Zameer was granted bail, Ford tweeted it was “beyond comprehension the person responsible for this heinous crime is now out on bail,” Hasan noted.
That tweet was removed and replaced with a version that said it was “beyond comprehension” that the “the person charged for this heinous crime is now out on bail.”
Hasan said the comments “essentially” declared Zameer guilty.
“If these politicians had kept their mouths shut after the bail hearing, we would not be asking for this remedy,” Hasan told the court.
The judge said the comments on Zameer’s release on bail from politicians including Ford and Toronto’s mayor “did not help.”
The Crown is opposing the defence’s effort to partially lift the publication ban.
“The release of your honour’s judgment could be more problematic for the accused, there could be members of the public who disagree with your judgment, there could be backlash,” said Crown attorney Karen Simone.
She added that the Crown would have requested a publication ban if the defence hadn’t done so.
The Crown also said the fact Copeland released Zameer on bail should speak to the court’s thinking about releasing him back into the community.
Copeland took issue with that.
“It seems to speak to some of the public figures who commented on the decision without reading the decision, which they could have before making comments,” Copeland said.
The judge said she hopes to have her decision by mid-January.
“Obviously this is a complex issue,” she said.