TORONTO — When a 15-year-old boy, whose death would prompt major reviews of school safety, lay dying at the bottom of a stairwell in his high school no one realized at first that he had been shot, a Toronto court heard Wednesday.
Jordan Manners was lying not in a pool of blood, as the bullet was lodged inside his slender body, but in his own urine, struggling to breathe and trying to speak.
It was only when teachers and staff noticed a discolouration around a hole in his white jacket — right by the zipper, which was partially melted — that they realized he had been shot.
Two young men pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Wednesday in the May 23, 2007, death of Manners. They cannot be identified as they were under 18 at the time of the killing.
Several witnesses are expected to testify they saw Manners walking with the two accused right before he collapsed, Crown attorney Aaron Del Rizzo told the jury.
“(They) had the exclusive opportunity to carry out the planned and deliberate murder of Jordan Manners,” he said in his opening address.
One witness, he said, is expected to testify she saw Manners just after 2 p.m. walking down a set of stairs, carrying a pop can. One accused was in front of him while the other was behind him.
She saw one of the accused drag Manners down the stairs and put something to Manners’ chest, before the boy collapsed on the ground, Del Rizzo said.
Immediately afterwards, one of the accused rifled through Manners pockets and handed some items to the other accused, and they both fled the scene, he said.
Manners, who had turned 15 just days before his death, died of a gunshot wound almost directly in the middle of his chest. The bullet from a .25-calibre gun went through his heart, pierced his lung and was lodged in his body, Del Rizzo said.
“The incident which is the subject matter of this trial is a disturbing one,” he told the jury.
“The shocking nature of this case is that it takes place in a high school, while class is in session, in the middle of the afternoon.”
Manners’ death prompted two major reviews on school safety and led to uniformed officers being placed in Toronto schools.
Premier Dalton McGuinty also engaged former Ontario minister Alvin Curling and retired Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry to study the roots of youth violence.
They recommended improving mental health services for young people and streamlining government departments to ensure better access to programs.
Among the spectators in the packed courtroom for the first day of the trial was Manners’ mother, Loreen Small, who sat slumped over listening to the details of her son’s death.