Jury acquits Degrassi actor in murder trial
By GAY ABBATE
Saturday, June 5, 2004 – Page A13
Tyson Talbot, who appeared in the first two Degrassi television series, has been acquitted of killing a man by punching him and then deliberately kicking him in the head as he lay dying.
But the 32-year-old former actor will not be getting out of jail soon because he is awaiting trial on a charge of attempted murder. He is accused of stabbing a man coming out of a bar on Danforth Avenue in March, 2002. A trial date has not been set.
Eight months after that alleged incident, he was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Christopher Shelton, 23, outside a restaurant on Gerrard Street East at Broadview Avenue.
Tears of relief and shouts of anger rocked the University Avenue courtroom late yesterday when the jury announced its verdict after deliberating for about 11 hours..
“Are you crazy?” Mr. Shelton’s mother, Theresa, yelled at the jurors before collapsing in her seat, racked with loud sobs. She was supported by equally angry and shocked relatives. “Idiots,” she called to the jurors before she left the courtroom in tears.
A distraught David Shelton, the victim’s father, looked as if he was going to rush at either Mr. Talbot or the jurors. His second wife and another woman held him by the arms as if to restrain him, as much as to comfort him.
The jurors sat through the angry scene before Madam Justice Gloria Epstein of the Ontario Superior Court dismissed them with her thanks.
But the emotional tableau played out before her prompted the judge to express her own feelings. “My heart goes out to the families who have been affected by this tragedy, especially the family of Mr. Shelton,” she told the court.
Before leaving the courtroom, one family member shouted at the jurors: “Don’t you know his record?”
The jury had a sanitized version of Mr. Talbot’s criminal record, with only a handful of his 25 convictions dating back to the late 1980s read into it.
His seven convictions for offences involving violence were omitted because the judge ruled that the information could be prejudicial to Mr. Talbot if the jury used that to convict him.
The jury did not hear of the attempted-murder charge. Nor was it told that Mr. Talbot was out on bail in June, 2002, when he was charged with hitting his young son with a belt. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
As a youngster, Mr. Talbot played Billy Martin, the neighbourhood athlete, in The Kids of Degrassi Street, the first in the successful series. He appeared in the sequel, Degrassi Junior High, but quit after four episodes.
Mr. Talbot was charged with second-degree murder, but Judge Epstein told the jury that they could convict him of manslaughter instead if they determined that he did not intend to kill Mr. Shelton. The jury acquitted Mr. Talbot both of the second-degree charge, to which he pleaded not guilty, and of manslaughter.
There were sobs and hugs of joy among Mr. Talbot’s family, who sat at the opposite end of the courtroom.
“I’d like to talk with the Sheltons,” Mr. Talbot’s mother, Carmela, said tearfully after the verdict. “We’re not bad people. It happened. It’s a tragedy on both sides,” she said, adding that her life will never be the same.
David Shelton scoffed at her peace offering, saying she had every opportunity to speak to him during the trial.
His voice choked with emotion, he said he was disappointed in the justice system that failed his son. “He was murdered and no one did it?” he asked.