Alek Minassian is shown in a handout photo from his LinkedIn page. A psychiatrist retained by the defence will testify for a fifth consecutive day today at the trial for the man behind Toronto's van attack. Dr. Alexander Westphal says Alek Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

TORONTO — The man who killed 10 people after deliberately driving down pedestrians in Toronto told a psychiatrist he knew what he did was wrong, court heard Friday.

“I know what I did was morally wrong,” Alek Minassian told Dr. Alexander Westphal, a U.S. based psychiatrist retained by the defence.

“And extremely devastating. And irreversible.”

Those words were not captured in Westphal’s final report, Crown attorney Joe Callaghan said.

Westphal has said Minassian lacks empathy and does not understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but said criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one.

The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. The defence argues he is not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018.

Minassian’s state of mind at the time is the sole issue at trial after he admitted to planning and carrying out the attack.

Callaghan alleged the star witness for the defence purposefully left out the admission by Minassian “because it did not fit” Westphal’s narrative.

Westphal denied the charge, saying he synthesized information from various sources, including his hours of interviews with Minassian.

In a report, Westphal concluded:

“The act was also completely beyond his comprehension given his absence or understanding of emotional nuance, social exchange, and contextual accommodation,” he wrote.

“He had absolutely no insight into the terrible impact that the act would have on other beings, and did not think about the pain he was bound to cause, nor understood it, even slightly, now.”

Callaghan took issue with the conclusion.

“How can you testify in this court in this trial on mass murder and leave out ‘It was extremely devastating and irreversible’?” Callaghan said.

The prosecution pointed it out it never would have known about Minassian’s statement if Justice Anne Molloy didn’t order videos of the interviews released to the Crown two weeks ago.

Minassian’s lawyer had said Westphal would be the only expert to say Minassian should be found not criminally responsible for his actions due to autism spectrum disorder, but the psychiatrist has stopped short of making that conclusion.

Earlier, Westphal conceded Minassian has shown empathy in some instances.

Under cross-examination from the prosecution, Westphal said Minassian showed a touch of empathy for his father in his police interview.

About nine hours after the attack, Det. Rob Thomas had a long interview with Minassian.

At one point, Thomas confronts Minassian after catching him in a lie.

Minassian initially told the detective he had taken the bus to the Ryder rental agency to pick up the van.

But his father actually dropped him off at a coffee shop and then Minassian walked four kilometres to the rental agency, court has heard.

Minassian told the detective he lied in order to protect his father, worried he’d be charged as an accessory to murder.

His father, Vahe Minassian, did not know about his son’s plans for the attack, court has heard.

“Do you agree Mr. Minassian lying to protect his father shows his ability to take perspective and have empathy for his father?” Callaghan asked.

“That statement is too general for me — to some degree it does, but I don’t think that requires much sophistication in this context, but I will grant you it does require reference to his father’s needs as opposed to his own needs, which is unusual for him,” Westphal said.

In that police interview, Minassian also refuses to name or discuss anyone else, including his parents or family members.

Callaghan suggested that meant Minassian didn’t want to involve others, demonstrating “his ability to have empathy and take the perspective of others and respect their privacy” — assertions Westphal agreed with.

The psychiatrist, who specializes in autism, maintains that despite some examples of empathy, Minassian does not understand that other people have feelings.

Westphal has previously testified that Minassian views people as objects and does not comprehend the devastation of his actions.

He has also said Minassian does not understand what he did was wrong, despite the young man telling the doctor repeatedly he did.

He has concluded that Minassian was incapable of rational decision making at the time of the attack based on his irrational thoughts due to autism spectrum disorder.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

crime

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Paul Harris, owner of Tribe restaurant downtown, said a lot of the blame for the latest restrictions that will close outdoor patios on Sunday can be blamed on those not obeying health regulations and the government for failing to enforce the rules.
Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
Restaurant owners frustrated by patio shutdowns

Outdoor patios must stop serving by midnight Sunday to stem rising COVID infections

The City of Red Deer said Wednesday that some outdoor activity rentals will be available starting Monday for households only. (Advocate File Photo)
City of Red Deer outlines activities available as new provincial COVID-19 restrictions set in

There will be limited recreation activities available across the City of Red… Continue reading

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 2,271 new COVID-19 cases, Red Deer cases rise slightly

Across Alberta, there are 666 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 146 in the ICU

‘Love, Oran’ is a documentary feature made by Red Deer-raised filmmaker Colin Scheyen. It’s about hidden letters, found in a Woodlea home after 70 years, revealing a family secret. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Hidden letters reveal secrets of Red Deer family in a new documentary film

‘Love, Oran,’ by filmmaker Colin Scheyen is showing at Edmonton’s NorthwestFest

Red Deer Rebels’ three graduating players, Josh Tarzwell (left), Chris Douglas (middle) and Ethan Anders (right) will all move on to new opportunities next season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
‘It was a rollercoaster’: Rebels’ graduating players look back on wild season

The nerves. Even three-and-a-half-years later, Josh Tarzwell still remembers the nervousness he… Continue reading

Jets beat Flames 4-0 to snap seven-game losing streak and clinch playoff spot

Jets beat Flames 4-0 to snap seven-game losing streak and clinch playoff spot

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, left, directs her teammates, lead Briane Meilleur, right, and second Shannon Birchard, against Estonia at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, May 5, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson extends win streak to four games at world curling playdowns

Canada’s Einarson extends win streak to four games at world curling playdowns

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy, left, talks with midfielder Lassi Lappalainen during the second half of an MLS soccer match against Columbus Crew, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The game ended in a 0-0 tie. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Canadian MLS teams try to make best of relocation

Canadian MLS teams try to make best of relocation

Damian Warner, of Canada bronze, smiles during the medal ceremony for the decathlon at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Nariman El-Mofty
Decathlete Damian Warner says being a dad has brought balance and new perspective

Decathlete Damian Warner says being a dad has brought balance and new perspective

Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gestures rounding third base after hitting his third home run against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, April 27, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Blue Jays shuffling back to Buffalo starting June 1

Blue Jays shuffling back to Buffalo starting June 1

Bedard, Wright lead Canadians into gold-medal game at U18 championship

Bedard, Wright lead Canadians into gold-medal game at U18 championship

Canada players are seen prior to the match against Costa Rica as part of the 2021 CONCACAF Futsal Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala in this Wednesday, May 5, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, CONCACAF, Straffon Images, Norvin Mendoza *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canada loses to Costa Rica but advances at CONCACAF Futsal Championship

Canada loses to Costa Rica but advances at CONCACAF Futsal Championship

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver addresses the audience at the Yukon Government swearing in ceremony, in the Yukon Government Legislature foyer, in Whitehorse, Monday, May 3, 2021. The Yukon government says travelers who can prove they've been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will no longer be required to self-isolate when they enter the territory beginning May 25. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Kelly
Yukon to lift requirement of 14-day self-isolation for arriving travellers on May 25

Yukon to lift requirement of 14-day self-isolation for arriving travellers on May 25

Most Read