Mental illness defence relies on accused's word that he saw monsters: Crown in high school stabbing case
Published Thursday, January 14, 2021 3:47PM PST Last Updated Thursday, January 14, 2021 7:28PM PST
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. -- A Crown prosecutor says there's no reliable evidence to support an argument that a man who stabbed two high school girls in Abbotsford, B.C., was having a psychotic break and didn't realize they were human.
Gabriel Klein was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in March for the 2016 attack that killed 13-year-old Letisha Reimer and injured her friend.
Closing arguments are underway in a hearing in which Klein's lawyer has argued his client should not be held criminally responsible because he suffered a mental disorder that led him to believe he was stabbing monsters.
However, Crown prosecutor Rob Macgowan said the judge hearing the case would have to accept Klein's version of events in order to rule in his favour.
“If you don't accept Klein's word for it, we submit that all you would be left with is the same body of evidence upon which he was found guilty of murder and aggravated assault,” Macgowan told the judge Thursday.
The B.C. Supreme Court has heard that Klein was waiting in a rotunda that connects Abbotsford Senior Secondary with a public library when he encountered the girls.
He testified in court that he was feeling suicidal and was waiting to use a library computer to email his mother. As he waited, he said he saw a witch and zombie with maggots coming out of its back and heard a voice telling him to “kill” before he stabbed them.
He did not realize what he had done until after the fact, he told the court. He was later diagnosed with several mental disorders, including schizophrenia, while in custody awaiting trial.
In order to be found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder under the Criminal Code, the judge must conclude that Klein was suffering a mental disorder that made him incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of his crime, or of understanding that it was wrong.
Macgowan said Klein has not suggested he couldn't understand that stabbing people could result in their death, nor that stabbing people is wrong.
Instead, Macgowan said Klein's case rests on the judge finding he did not appreciate the fact that he was stabbing people.
“That is the nature of Mr. Klein's defence,” Macgowan said.
The problem is that any evidence confirming Klein's perceptions at the time leads back to his own words, including reports or testimony from expert witnesses who say they believe Klein's claims, Macgowan argued. Case law indicates it's the court's jurisdiction to make a finding of fact, not the expert witnesses.
Klein has offered varying accounts of what he saw, what the voices in his head told him, and the events leading up to the attack, Macgowan said.
Martin Peters, Klein's lawyer, said Wednesday that there is general consensus among experts that schizophrenia and memories arising from psychotic events cause deficits in working memory. Inconsistencies, contradictions and imprecisions in memories of psychotic episodes are not unusual and are to be expected, Klein said.
But Macgowan argued that doesn't make Klein a reliable witness.
“The presence of internal inconsistencies are not rendered irrelevant the moment someone claims to be in a psychotic state,” Macgowan said.
Beyond the incident, he has admitted in court to lying on several occasions, including regarding an account of being robbed by someone dressed as a clown, and during a conversation with one of the doctors examining him, Macgowan said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021.