Toronto woman in chair-throwing case faced ‘peer pressure,’ lawyer says. Will this fly in court?
The lawyer of the woman charged with throwing a chair off a Toronto highrise said she was under peer pressure and is now traumatized by the event.
But even if her lawyer does bring up the alleged peer pressure in court, experts say it doesn’t hold weight as a legal defence.
Marcella Zoia, 19, a dental hygienist student, was released on bail Wednesday and faces multiple charges including mischief endangering life in connection to the chair-throwing case.
On Monday, a video surfaced online appearing to show Zoia hurling a chair off a condo balcony alongside a busy highway. The chair landed on a sidewalk nearby and there were no reports of any injuries.
WATCH: Woman facing 3 charges for alleged Toronto balcony chair toss
She turned herself into the Toronto police on Wednesday and was released on $2,000 bail.
Her lawyer, Greg Leslie, added that the case “might not go to trial” as he is discussing it with the Crown’s office. He added even though there is a video, there is still a presumption of innocence.
Leslie said his client is embarrassed and said she is going through a “traumatic experience.”
When asked by reporters why his client threw a chair off a balcony, he replied, “There were people there causing peer pressure … she is a young lady and a mistake happened. She had a momentary lapse of judgment.”
Toronto criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown said arguing a client committed an act because of “peer pressure” is “certainly not a legal defence.”
Brown said despite that it could still be used to help contextualize the case at the sentencing hearing.
“A person may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol and given in to peer pressure … these type of things can explain the behaviour and help put it in context,” he said. “But it would not absolve someone from liability.”
He said a lot of people commit crimes because others encourage them to do it, but it’s still not a legal defence. A lawyer could use the argument in a sentencing hearing to minimize the client’s behaviour and minimize the sentence.
“But it would not result in a not-guilty finding,” Brown added.
Jordan Donish, a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer, who is also not involved in the case, agreed.
“It is not a defence. It’s being said to make it seem mitigated,” Donish said.
One of the most serious charges Zoia faces is the mischief endangering life. Brown said if she’s convicted, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. However, he said jail is probably not an option in this case.
He said the type of sentence will depend on a variety of personal circumstances like prior convictions.
Zoia’s “remorseful” behaviour will probably also be looked at, Donich said.
“When you are pleading guilty, your golden ticket as a first-time offender is a discharge. You did it … but because it’s a first offence, you won’t receive a personal criminal conviction,” he said.
But he said because Zoia appeared to be smiling after the bail hearing, it may be used against her in court.
“If there is a guilty plea, you’re going to say you’re sorry and say, ‘I made a bad decision.’ But when you roll back the tapes, the judge will look if you are in fact genuine … and that is where the problem is going to be now.”
Zoia has yet to make any plea and is set to appear in court on March 22.
WATCH: Woman seen on video tossing chair off balcony facing multiple charges
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