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Crown argues to limit hearing over criminal responsibility in stabbing case

NEW WESTMINSTER — A Crown attorney says the B.C. Supreme Court should limit arguments in a hearing next month about whether a man who stabbed two high school students in Abbotsford, B.C., was criminally responsible for the crime. 

Gabriel Klein has already been convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the stabbing death of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer and injuring her friend in an attack in the rotunda of Abbotsford Secondary School in 2016. 

His sentencing hearing was set to begin last month but defence lawyer Martin Peters said Klein changed his mind and wanted to exercise his right to argue that he is not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder. 

At a hearing Friday in New Westminster, Crown attorney Rob Macgowan told the court that the only issue that could reasonably be raised after the verdict is whether the accused was incapable of appreciating the moral wrongfulness of his action. 

However, Macgowan said that by raising the issue of criminal responsibility after the verdict has been delivered, the defence is asking the court to reconsider its findings on Klein's intent. 

He said the judge already decided that Klein had the intent to commit the crime.

"The court should not be asked to receive evidence or hear arguments that Mr. Klein did not appreciate the nature or quality of his acts because, if accepted now, that can only serve to contradict the verdict your ladyship has rendered in this case," Macgowan told the judge.

Macgowan said Klein is asking the court to look at essentially the same body of evidence that was reviewed at trial and reach a different conclusion. 

He pointed out the defence unsuccessfully argued that Klein was guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter because he lacked criminal intent.  

Peters responded, saying the Crown didn't make clear what evidence it wanted to exclude. 

"Is the Crown saying Mr. Klein can't come to this court and for the first time give evidence as to what he thought he was stabbing?" Peters asked.

A finding of not criminally responsible after the verdict doesn't contradict the verdict, but flows from it, Peter said.

"You simply find an exception to criminal responsibility and find not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder. That doesn't contradict the earlier finding it is the ... exception that flows from the subsequent evidence."

A finding of not criminally responsible will almost always challenge the finding of criminal intent, Peters said.

Any restriction on evidence regarding a person's possible mental disorder would limit their right to a fair trial, he said.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes reserved her decision but said she would deliver it before the hearing begins Nov. 9.

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2020. 

The Canadian Press