Dirk Derstine

Eaton Centre shooter verdict: Christopher Husbands found guilty of second-degree murder

Christopher Husbands has been found guilty two counts of second degree murder by a jury, though it is unclear what its specific reasoning was.

In June 2012, Husbands fired 14 rounds from an automatic pistol in the Eaton Centre food court. His bullets killed two men, Nixon Nirmalendran, an old childhood friend, and Ahmed Hassan, another acquaintance. They also wounded five, including Connor Stevenson, a 13-year-old boy who took a non-fatal bullet to the forehead.

Those facts were not in argument at the trial.

What was, however, was if Husbands intentions were revenge or if it was temporary dissociative state.

The Crown has argued that Husbands shot Nixon Nirmalendran in an act of cold-blooded revenge. (Everyone else hit that day, under that theory, was collateral damage.)

Husbands’ lawyer, Dirk Derstine, offered a different scenario, saying Husbands was paranoid and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he entered the mall that day. When he saw Nirmalendran, he feared for his life. He entered a dissociative state and shot his gun without knowing what he was doing.

-More coming-

What the jury didn’t hear: ‘Not-criminally responsible’ defence of Eaton Centre shooter sprung midway through trial

Defence attorneys in the Eaton Centre murder trial caught the Crown off guard when they unveiled a doctor’s report midway through the trial that alleged their client was in a dissociative state when he shot seven people two years ago.

The surprise medical opinion, used to support a defence of “not criminally responsible” prompted Crown Attorney Mary Humphrey to ask for a significant delay in the trial, one the judge in the case rejected out of hand.

Jurors in the first-degree murder trial began their deliberations Tuesday. In his final instructions, Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk told the jury to choose between two starkly different accounts of the mass shooting.

In the Crown version, Christopher Husbands, the defendant, carried out a deliberate, planned assassination in an act of street justice that served as his revenge for an earlier attack.

In the defence account, Husbands, suffering from “crippling anxiety” and “incapacitating post-traumatic stress disorder,” killed two people and wounded five others after slipping into a state of “authentic dissociation.”

What the jurors didn’t know, however, is that Husbands’ attorneys sprung the “not-criminally responsible” defence on the Crown midway through the case. His lead attorney, Dirk Derstine, made no mention of PTSD in his opening statement. And the Crown had no expert ready to refute the doctor’s report when it appeared.

That led to a mini-crisis in the middle of the two-month trial. After consulting one expert witness, Mrs. Humphrey told the judge she would need a delay of at least several weeks before she could produce a credible second opinion on Husbands’ mental state.

Mr. Ewaschuk, however, refused to grant any significant break. Even after Mrs. Humphrey relayed her expert’s opinion that no responsible medical professional would perform an assessment in the time frame available, Mr. Ewaschuk refused to budge.

Eventually, the Crown found two doctors willing to testify. Both disagreed with defence expert Dr. Julian Gojer, who testified that Husbands entered a dissociative state brought on by PTSD in the Eaton Centre on June 2, 2012.

Husbands shot and killed two men in the busy food court that evening. His stray bullets wounded five others.

During the trial, the Crown argued the shooting was an act of revenge against men who had beaten, bound and stabbed Husbands months earlier. The defence contended that Husbands, a fragile wreck after the earlier attack, went into a trance when he randomly ran into his attackers in the Eaton Centre food court.

Husbands faces two counts of first-degree murder, five others of aggravated assault and another of criminal negligence causing harm. On the murder charges, the jurors also have the option of finding him guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.