Van attack trial adjourned until Thursday
Alek Minassian is seen during his murder trial being held via videoconference on Nov. 10, 2020. (John Mantha)
Published Monday, November 23, 2020 6:22AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 23, 2020 10:35AM EST
Alek Minassian's murder trial has been adjourned until Thursday as the Crown takes the next few days to review recordings of interviews the accused did with a U.S. psychiatrist.
Dr. John Bradford, a psychiatrist for the defence, was expected to take the stand today to offer his opinion on Minassian's state of mind at the time of the 2018 attack.
But the Crown indicated that more time is needed to review materials that were recently received from Dr. Alexander Westphal, an American psychiatrist who will also be testifying for the defence.
On Friday, Justice Anne Molloy reluctantly agreed to seal all recordings of interviews Minassian did with Westphal, who argued that if the videos were released to the public, they have the potential to prompt more violent attacks.
Westphal said he would refuse to testify if the judge did not seal the recordings, putting Molloy, who cannot legally compel someone outside the country to testify, in a very difficult situation.
“If he was here, there would be no problem. I would not for a moment tolerate it,” Molloy said on Friday. “That doctor would be under arrest before he could blink.”
Minassian, who faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder, has already admitted to driving a rented cargo van on sidewalks along a busy stretch of Yonge Street in North York on the afternoon April 23, 2018, killing 10 pedestrians and wounding 16 others who were in his path.
His lawyers argue that Minassian is not criminally responsible for his actions (NCR) under Sec. 16 of the Criminal Code.
A person is NCR if they were suffering from a mental disorder that rendered them “incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.”
The defence has said the only relevant diagnosis they will be relying on in this case is autism spectrum disorder.
Minassian's lawyer, Boris Bytensky, previously said Westphal is the only psychiatrist prepared to testify that Minassian is not criminally responsible for his actions.
“Dr. Westphal has refused to participate knowing that there's nothing I can do about it if he does not, and knowing that he is all there is in terms of a defence for Mr. Minassian,” Molloy said on Friday.
“I'm where the buck stops in terms of Mr. Minassian having a fair trial.”
Police and psychiatrists have offered up a number of motives for the attack.
In a lengthy police interview with Det. Rob Thomas, Minassian said he felt anger toward women and claimed to be a member of the “incel movement,” an extreme online community consisting of men who claim to be "involuntarily celibate."
Last week, Dr. Rebecca Chauhan, who was asked by Bradford to assess Minassian and offer a second opinion on his autism diagnosis, testified that in the months leading up to the attack, the accused became "hyper-fixated" on the "manifesto" of Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured fourteen others in an attack in Isla Vista, California in May 2014.
Chauhan said Minassian told her he believed the attack was "worth it" because he gained the notoriety he was seeking.
In a report referenced during the Crown's cross-examination of Chauhan last week, Bradford wrote that while Minassian may have been "strongly influenced" by the manifesto, he denied being "radicalized" by it.
Bradford said Minassian's “principal motivation" for the van attack was "fear of failing at his job," which was scheduled to start shortly after the incident.
Bradford's report also indicated that Minassian lied to police during his interview with Thomas shortly after his arrest.
Minassian told Thomas that his anger toward women first surfaced when he was rejected by a group of females at a Halloween party in 2013.
“I walked in and attempted to socialize with some girls, however, they all laughed and held the arms of the big guys instead,” Minassian told the detective. “I was angry they would give their love and attention to obnoxious brutes.”
According to Bradford's report, Minassian later admitted that he made up the story about the Halloween party.
"He denies that he is part of incel although he has been disappointed in the past with his social interactions,” Bradford's report read.
Bradford is expected to be the next witness for the defence when the trial resumes on Thursday morning.
-With files from The Canadian Press