Why was Umar Zameer tried for murder? Observers raise questions about prosecution of Brampton man’s death


Published April 22, 2024 at 3:33 pm

Legal observers say prosecutors need to explain why a man was tried for murder in the death of a Brampton man working as a Toronto police officer when the evidence did not support that charge.

Umar Zameer was found not guilty Sunday in the death of Jeffrey Northrup of Brampton, a Toronto Police Service detective constable who died on July 2, 2021, after he was hit by a vehicle in an underground parking garage at Toronto City Hall.

Zameer had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Alison Craig, a defence lawyer based in Toronto, says the case would “likely have proceeded very differently” had the deceased Brampton man not been a police officer.

She says there should be an inquiry to investigate why the case was prosecuted as a murder when the evidence from the Crown’s own expert contradicted that narrative.

Daniel Brown, a defence lawyer and former president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, says the case appeared to be a “political prosecution,” noting several politicians – including Ontario Premier Doug Ford – publicly condemned Zameer before the case even went to trial.

“It created a false narrative about what happened in this case,” Brown said. “The premier of Ontario was putting his thumb on the scales of justice and infecting the public’s views about how they should view this man.”

A longtime Brampton resident, Northrup grew up in Mississauga before eventually joining Toronto Police.

During legal arguments not heard by the jury, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy on several occasions asked the Crown to lay out its narrative for how Zameer came to hit Northrup with his car.

Molloy said the scenario proposed by the Crown – that Northrup was hit while standing behind the pillar out of the view of the camera and left handprints on the car – was not consistent with the evidence.

When Zameer was released on bail in the fall of 2021, Ford expressed his disapproval on X, calling the decision “completely unacceptable.” He initially described Zameer as “the person responsible for this heinous crime,” but later changed it to “the person charged.”

Then-Toronto mayor John Tory and Brampton’s mayor also denounced the decision, and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown also called the move “disgusting.”

“It is very disturbing that the person charged for this heinous crime is now out on bail,” Mayor Brown said on Twitter.

At the time, the reasons for the ruling could not be publicly disclosed due to a publication ban, but the ban has lifted now that the trial is complete. In her decision, the bail judge found, among other things, that the Crown had a “weak” case for murder.

Ford’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Ontario’s attorney general’s office also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement on Monday, Mayor Brown said the verdict “marks a complex moment for our community.”

In 2022, Brampton named a park after Northrup. A 31-year veteran of the police force, Ret. Chief James Ramer said Northrup was “noble, brave and compassionate” and inspired countless other officers during his tenure with the service.

Northrup spent his time off the job volunteering with the Bramalea Scouts, Brampton Minor Lacrosse and Brampton Special Olympics among other organizations.

“As we move forward, let us recommit to respecting and honouring Jeff’s legacy,” the mayor said. “We will continue to cherish and celebrate his life and contributions to our community for many years to come.”

Daniel Brown said the fact that the trial judge, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy, apologized to Zameer after the jury delivered its verdict Sunday is “unusual” and significant.

“It’s highly rare and it felt that she was expressing the public’s collective feeling about this case,” he said.

– With files from Insauga.com

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