This article was originally published on thestar.com, Wednesday February 10, 2010
Wed Feb 10 2010
It was heartbreaking for Sam and Gladys Garavellos to sit through the first trial of their son’s accused killer.
Hearing details of how Tom, 25, died from massive blood loss as a result of being stabbed in the stomach during a street fight on the night of the great power blackout of Aug. 14, 2003, are horrific memories they’ll never forget.
But the second trial was almost too much to endure. Their beloved son was portrayed as an unemployed loser looking for trouble instead of the loving, hard-working, talented young man they knew.
Their anguish reached new levels of despair on Monday when a jury found Raman Gill, 28, not guilty of second-degree murder nearly three years after a previous jury convicted the Mississauga man of murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
“It felt like I was stabbed in the gut, just like our son was,” Gladys said, sitting at the dining room table across from her husband of nearly 34 years. They have two other sons.
Gill and his friends were looking at the stars through a telescope by the side of a road near Dundas St. W. and Winston Churchill Blvd. when Garavellos and a friend, who had been drinking and smoking marijuana, drove by, swore and called the stargazers “geeks.”
An angry Gill pounded on the back of the Mercedes-Benz. Garavellos got out with a beer bottle. He was punched in the head and as he stumbled, Gill stabbed him with a knife.
Sam feared the worst every time defence lawyer Margaret Bojanowska portrayed Gill and his friends as outstanding university students.
“They were pitted that night against a pot-smoking, beer-drinking unemployed, combative good-for-nothing waste of a man,” Sam said. “We’ll never know but the jury had to be influenced by this character attack. Who wouldn’t? But they never knew the real Tom. He wasn’t a troublemaker. He was a very talented young man.”
Tom was a Humber College graduate and had just quit his job as a tool and die maker, taking a week off before starting with a new company. He loved to draw and paint.
The jurors spent more than 35 hours over five days in deliberation. Their verdict means they believed Gill was acting in lawful self-defence, fearing for his life or that he might suffer grievous bodily harm, when he stabbed Garavellos.
Jurors never knew Gill had been convicted by another jury in 2006. They also never knew he was serving a life sentence when an appeals court overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial after serving 18 months.
Sam thought, at best, they would return a manslaughter verdict.
“You can never be prepared for something like this,” he said. “You hope against hope. In the end, a very promising young man died. No verdict brings him back to us.”
Jurors rejected Crown prosecutor’s Cam Watson’s assertion that Garavellos, not Gill, acted in self-defence when he waved a beer bottle in front of himself as Gill and two friends surrounded him. Watson said Gill intended to kill or cause serious harm to Garavellos.
In the first trial, jurors weren’t allowed to consider whether Gill was provoked and acted “in the heat of passion” after being taunted by Garavellos. This jury was allowed to consider it but that would only have reduced his crime from murder to manslaughter with a potentially lighter sentence.
Tom and Gladys Garavellos feel jurors got it wrong. But they’ll have to find a way to move on, just as they did the night Tom died.
“We didn’t talk to each other for several days,” said Gladys. “Not to ourselves, not to our kids. But we are strong. You live one day at a time. You thank God for waking up and you live that day.”
“We’re grieving all over again,” Sam said. “We got through it the first time. We hope we’ll get through it again.”