Toronto van attack killer found guilty of murder

Toronto van attack killer found guilty of murder

Ontario Superior Court Judge Anne Molloy rejected defense arguments that Alek Minassian's autism spectrum disorder (ASD) made him incapable of discerning right from wrong in what she termed a "horrific" crime.

Molloy said the 28-year-old showed no remorse and did not empathize with his victims although, she ruled, this was not an adequate defense.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled later this month. "Lack of empathy for the suffering of victims - even an incapacity to empathize, for whatever reason - does not constitute a defence under Section 16 of the Criminal Code", she said in her decision.

For the first time in Canada, a judge has accepted that autism qualifies as a "mental disorder" for an accused trying to argue they were not criminally responsible.

She said Minassian understood that mass murder is morally wrong by society's standards, and that he knew the consequences of his actions, leaving him criminally responsible for the killings.

Psychiatrists and his father testified that he had been diagnosed as a child with a pervasive developmental disorder - now known as ASD.

The prosecutor argued Minassian's autism did not deprive him of the ability to assess the morality of his actions.

The key issue at Minassian's trial, which began last November without a jury, was whether he had the capacity at the time of the attack to make a rational choice.

Kim Sauder, an autistic activist who uses the pronouns "she" and "they" interchangeably, said the defence's arguments played into inaccurate stereotypes that autistic people are somehow risky, while downplaying other aspects of Minassian's life. "He took lives and he didn't care and you just have to be accountable for what you do", she said.

"I'm not in a party mood, because it's not a celebration".

Nick D'Amico, whose sister was killed in the attack, told reporters he too can finally breathe more easily after "holding my breath for three years".

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Some legal experts expressed concern about the implications of Molloy's decision, while members of the autism community said it would further stigmatize those living with the condition.

At one point he became fixated on an American mass murderer who hated women.

A young boy writes a message at a memorial for victims of Alek Minassian's van attack in Toronto mass killing on Yonge Street at Finch Avenue on April 24, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.

Minassian only stopped when one of his victims spilled their drink on his windshield and he anxious he'd crash. "The accused committed a horrific crime and left some of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured", Molloy said on zoom at the trial before delivering her verdict.

The trial of van attack perpetrator Alek Minassian was hard for members of Canada's autism community, who feel their condition was on trial too because of his unconventional defence.

Minassian was arrested shortly after crashing the van near the scene of the attack.

He said he had joined an online community of like-minded men who described themselves as "incels" or "involuntary celibates", whose sexual frustrations led them to embrace a misogynist ideology.

Later he mentioned different motives to different doctors who analyzed him.

"The accused committed a horrific crime, one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured, for the goal of achieving fame", Judge Molloy wrote in the ruling.

Justice Molloy stated the name and age of each of the victims in her decision.

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