Final arguments in trial of man accused of fatal stabbing at Abbotsford high school
VANCOUVER -- Crown prosecutor Rob Macgowan said Gabriel Klein was angry, desperate, and hopeless on Nov. 1, 2016: the day two high school students were stabbed at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, one of them fatally.
Closing arguments are now underway in the trial of Klein, who is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault in connection with the attack, and has pleaded not guilty.
Thirteen-year-old Letisha Reimer was killed, and another student was seriously wounded.
The Crown has said it has never been in dispute that Klein was the person responsible for the attack, but Macgowan told the court Monday Klein’s mental state at the time of the stabbing is still an issue to be determined.
The defence did not present evidence or call witnesses in the case, and Macgowan pointed out Klein has not raised the defence of not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.
Macgowan said Crown and defence both agree the only available verdicts on the count related to the fatal stabbing is guilty of second-degree murder or the lesser included charge of manslaughter.
“Right up until the close of the Crown’s case last week, it was understood by the Crown, and I would assume your Ladyship, that the question of whether Mr. Klein was not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder would be front and centre. With the decision of Mr. Klein to present no evidence, that is no longer the case,” Macgowan said.
He told the court the issue now is whether the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt Klein had the required intent, and that the attack was meant to cause death or that there was an awareness it could lead to death.
Macgowan said the Crown is arguing any alcohol potentially consumed by Klein prior to the stabbings would not have made him unable to realize his actions could cause death.
Security video from a liquor store was played during the trial, and the Crown has previously told the court Klein attended the store and appeared to steal some alcohol.
Macgowan also told the court Crown is arguing Klein’s behaviour after the attack does not indicate he was suffering from the effects of mental illness at the time, and even if he was, there is no evidence he could not foresee the consequences of his actions.
“While it is certainly tempting to seek to explain what is an objectively shocking, horrible crime by assuming that it must have been the product of a disordered mind, the court, of course, must render its verdict on the basis of the evidence before it,” Macgowan said.
Macgowan said in his submission, Klein was both capable of and contemplating violent action, and added unreasonable, irrational intent is nonetheless intent.
Multiple witnesses testified Klein told them he wanted to go home to Alberta, and wanted to talk to his family, in the days leading up to the attack.
The court heard testimony Klein attended a hospital and shelter prior to the stabbings at the school.
One shelter worker testified she had spoken to Klein’s mother and she only wanted him to contact her via email. Another worker told the court she gave Klein directions to the public library attached to the high school so he could use the computer there.
The court heard testimony that on the morning of Nov. 1, 2016, Klein became "verbally aggressive" according to one shelter worker after she wouldn’t help him call his mother. She testified he also wanted a bus ticket, and ended up clearing out his locker and leaving the shelter that day.
The Crown maintains Klein stole a hunting-style knife from a Cabela’s outdoor and sporting goods store just after noon on the day of the stabbings. Security video from that store was also played in court during the trial.
Macgowan also went over witness testimony heard in the trial, including evidence from psychiatrist Dr. Samantha Saffy, who spoke to Klein in the days following the stabbings. She testified Klein told her he thought about attacking a police officer to get the police to kill him, and planned to use the defence of not criminally responsible in his trial. She also told the court Klein said the students who were stabbed initially looked to him like "monsters," describing one as a grey owl, and the other a "shape-shifting witch."
Earlier this year, the BC Review Board found Klein fit to stand trial, after hearing in 2018 he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. In January, Klein's lawyer said there was a change in his medication and his mental state had improved.