The man who committed the Yonge St. van attack in 2018, Toronto’s worst mass killing, is appealing his conviction 10 ten counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.
In a notice of appeal filed this week, Alek Minassian argues Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy “misapprehended the expert evidence before her and/or made unreasonable findings of fact” in declining to find Minassian not criminally responsible for the mass murder due to a mental disorder. Minassian argued at trial that his specific form of autism spectrum disorder left him unable to know his actions were morally wrong — a highly controversial claim, unprecedented in Canada, that Molloy rejected.
Minassian spent several hours being interviewed Yale-based forensic psychiatrist and autism spectrum disorder expert Dr. Alexander Westphal, hired by the defence, and by the Crown’s expert, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Scott Woodside. Both psychiatrists testified and the trial spent days parsing the reliability and conclusions of various psychological and diagnostic tests done on Minassian.
In her verdict, Molloy concluded the evidence showed Minassian “had a functioning, rational brain, one that perceived the reality of what he was doing, and knew it was morally wrong by society’s standards, and contrary to everything he had been taught about right and wrong.”
She wrote: “He made a choice. He chose to commit the crimes anyway, because it was what he really wanted to do.”
The notice of appeal also argues Molloy erred by ordering that the recordings of interviews between Westphal and Minassian made for the defence and not reviewed by the experts in preparation for trial must be disclosed to the Crown. Her ruling meant that about five hours of videotaped interviews with Minassian were disclosed to the Crown and their expert witnesses. Some clips of those interviews were played in court but were banned from publication at Westphal’s insistence, out of concern it could boost Minassian’s notoriety in the misogynist incel movement.
Last month, Minassian was sentenced to the mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The notice of appeal asks that a finding of not criminally responsible be substituted for the convictions or that a new trial be ordered.
No date has been set for the appeal.
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