TORONTO: A 28-year-old Canadian who plowed a van into pedestrians in a deadly attack three years ago in Toronto was found guilty Wednesday of murdering 10 people and trying to kill 16 others.
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.
Minassian, 28, faces a minimum life term of 25 years in prison. A sentencing hearing will be set mid-March in a case that is considered one of Canada‘s most horrific attacks.
“His attack on these 26 victims that day was an act of a reasoning mind, notwithstanding its horrific nature and notwithstanding that he has no remorse for it and no empathy for his victims,” Molloy said in her ruling.
“He knew it was morally wrong by society’s standards,” she said, but “he chose to commit the crimes anyway.”
Molloy ruled that he was “criminally responsible for his actions.”
The six week trial had heard from several psychiatrists.
Minassian’s mother had said he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that includes impaired social interactions or communication.
Defense lawyer Boris Bytensky said in his closing arguments that Minassian’s ASD left him incapable of discerning right from wrong and making a rational choice when he decided to target bystanders.
Because he raised a not criminally responsible defense, Bytensky would have had to prove that Minassian more likely than not had a mental disorder that affected his actions to this extent.
Advocacy groups had condemned the use of autism as a defense, concerned it would further stigmatize those with the disorder.
Minassian had driven a rented van at high speeds along two kilometers (more than a mile) of roads and sidewalks, indiscriminately targeting passers-by.
He had stopped his rampage, he told police, only after his windshield was obscured by a splashed coffee drink.
His trial heard he’d do it all again if he were let out of jail to better his “kill count.”
Just prior to the attack, he posted on Facebook: “The incel rebellion has already begun” and referred to American mass killer Elliot Rodger, who committed a similar attack in California.
During a police interrogation, Minassian described the anger he felt toward women and said this had motivated 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.
But in subsequent interviews with doctors, he gave different motives for the attack, including seeking notoriety.
Molloy noted in her decision that the “carnage against innocent people” in this case was “one of the most devastating tragedies this city has ever endured, for the purpose of achieving notoriety.”
Seeking to limit the publicity that Minassian sought, she referred to him as John Doe as she read out the verdict livestreamed on Youtube.