Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

Justice Anne Molloy, from top left, John Rinaldi, Dr. Scott Woodside and accused Alek Minassian are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference in this courtroom sketch on December 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

Verdict expected today in Toronto van attack trial

Alek Minassian admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018

TORONTO — A judge is expected to deliver her verdict today in the case of a man who deliberately drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk killing 10 people and injuring 16 others.

Alek Minassian has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018.

But he has argued he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions because he is autistic.

The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Anne Molloy’s judgment will be delivered via video conference and broadcast on YouTube.

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.

The Crown argued that Minassian is a mass killer who knew right from wrong and happens to have autism.

But the defence argued that because of autism, Minassian never developed empathy, and that lack of empathy left him incapable of rational choice.

A forensic psychiatrist testifying for the defence said Minassian did not know that what he did was morally wrong.

But the Crown pointed to numerous statements Minassian himself gave to various assessors when he said he knew that killing was morally wrong.

Two other forensic psychiatrists concluded Minassian did not meet the test to be found not criminally responsible.

The trial heard that Minassian had fantasized about mass killings for years, starting when he was in high school, where he was bullied for years.

Minassian told several psychiatric assessors he wanted to shoot up his high school, but was unable to find a gun.

At one point he became fixated on an American mass murderer who hated women. He joined an online community of so-called “incels” – males who are involuntarily celibate.

Minassian told a detective hours after the attack that he sought retribution against society because he was a lonely virgin who believed women wouldn’t have sex with him.

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

He told them he had a strong desire to commit a mass killing, he was lonely, worried he’d fail at his upcoming software development job, a belief he’d never have a relationship with a woman, his infatuation with a mass murderer and, what many point to as his biggest motivator, the quest for notoriety.

Three weeks before the attack he booked a rental van for the day after he completed his final college exam, court heard.

Around 1:30 p.m. on a bright and warm April day, Minassian sat in the driver’s seat at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue at a red light.

When the light turned green, he floored it, hopped the curb and began the attack.

He drove for about two kilometres on and off the sidewalk as he killed and maimed unsuspecting pedestrians along the way.

He was arrested moments later following a failed attempt to commit suicide by cop.

Betty Forsyth, Ji Hun Kim, So He Chung, Geraldine Brady, Chul Min Kang, Anne Marie Victoria D’Amico, Munir Najjar, Dorothy Marie Sewell, Andrea Bradden and Beutis Renuka Amarasingha died in the attack.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021.

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