September 24, 2020

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Vincent Li found not criminally responsible for murder

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/3/2009 (4220 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Vincent Li is headed to a hospital – not a prison cell – after being found not criminally responsible today for the murder of Tim McLean on board a Greyhound bus last summer.

Li admitted killing, beheading and cannibalizing McLean but believed he was acting under commands from God to attack a "demon" or else he would be executed, court heard during the two-day trial.

An artist's drawing of Vince Li inside the courtroom in Winnipeg.

TOM ANDRICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

An artist's drawing of Vince Li inside the courtroom in Winnipeg.

"These grotesque acts are appalling. However, the acts themselves and the context in which they were committed are strongly suggested of a mental disorder," Queen’s Bench Justice John Scurfield said in his decision.

"He did not appreciate the actions he committed were morally wrong. He believed he was acting in self defence."

Li, 40, showed no emotion at the verdict and was quietly led away by sheriff’s officers. He will appear before a Criminal Code review board in the next 90 days, where it is expected he will be sent to the Selkirk Mental Health Centre for long-term treatment. Li is currently housed in the psychiatric ward at the Health Sciences Centre.

He will be institutionalized without a criminal record and will be reassessed every year by a mental health review board to determine if he is fit for release into the community.

Crown attorney Joyce Dalmyn told reporters outside court justice had been served.

"I feel the judge did his job properly and reached the correct conclusion," she said. Dalmyn believes the review board will thoroughly monitor Li and will not let him return to the community unless they are certain he doesn’t pose a risk to society.

The victim’s family was upset, but not surprised, by the outcome. They are vowing to fight to keep Li locked up and want federal laws to change so that people like him never have the chance at release.

McLean's mother, Carol deDelley, said Li may have been mentally ill when he attacked her son, but the fact remains that a crime was committed.

"He still did it," she told reporters outside court. "Whether he was in his right frame of mind or not, he still did the act. There was nobody else on that bus holding a knife slicing up my child. Nobody else did that. Just one individual did that."

Tim Mclean Sr. displays a tattoo of his son outside court Thursday, after the judge handed down his verdict.

MIKE APORIUS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Tim Mclean Sr. displays a tattoo of his son outside court Thursday, after the judge handed down his verdict.

DeDelley said the law needs to be changed so someone can be found not psychologically accountable but still criminally responsible for a crime.

She also took a shot at Canadian immigration policies which she said allowed Li, who was born in China, into the country with a mental illness in the first place.

Scurfield’s verdict wasn’t surprising, considering the only evidence presented by both the Crown and defence during the trial called for the NCR finding.

 

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"This is as close to beyond a reasonable doubt as you can get. There's no contradictory evidence here," Li's lawyer, Alan Libman, told Scurfield during a brief closing argument on Wednesday morning.

Carol deDelley (left) mother of Tim McLean, kisses her daughter Katie outside the Law Courts in Winnipeg Thursday.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Carol deDelley (left) mother of Tim McLean, kisses her daughter Katie outside the Law Courts in Winnipeg Thursday.

Dalmyn told court her department had a duty to raise the issue of criminal responsibility even though it is controversial with the public.

"Almost every member of the public has said 'That guy is crazy, he needs to be locked up,'" she said.

"The Crown can't ask this court to convict Li of second-degree murder when all evidence points to him being not criminally responsible. He was not able to appreciate the nature of his actions due to his delusional thinking. He was not able to determine right from wrong."

Dr. Jonathan Rootenberg, a forensic psychiatrist who met with Li at the request of his lawyers, told court Wednesday that he believes Li didn't know what he was doing when he attacked the sleeping McLean without warning or provocation.

"He certainly didn't know it was wrong. He was quite psychotic during that time period," Rootenberg said.

He said Li likely didn't view McLean as a human being as he attacked him. "He viewed the unfortunate victim as a demon. He believes it wasn't his hands doing that, but it was God's hands, through him."

Carol deDelley and Tim Mclean Sr. speak to the media outside the Law Courts after the verdict was handed down.

MIKE APORIUS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Carol deDelley and Tim Mclean Sr. speak to the media outside the Law Courts after the verdict was handed down.

He called Li a good candidate for treatment because he doesn't have any history of substance abuse or anti-social disorders, which are often psychotic triggers for people who have schizophrenia. Rootenberg added that Li has responded well to medical treatment and therapy but will always have to be watched closely to protect against a relapse.

"He is in the very early stages of being treated. He definitely represents a significant risk at this point," he said.

Rootenberg echoed the findings of the Crown's lone witness, Dr. Stanley Yaren, who told court Tuesday that Li said he heard voices from God that caused him to single out McLean for death.

Yaren said Li has a very strong chance to recover and was an otherwise "decent person" who was clearly out of his mind when he believed he was acting on God's commands to eliminate "the force of evil" by attacking McLean.

"He was being tormented by auditory hallucinations," Yaren said. "He believed Mr. McLean was a force of evil and was about to execute him. He had to act fast, urgently, to save himself. This wasn't an innocent bystander or stranger he chose to kill, but rather an evil force he was commanded to kill."

Yaren, the director of forensic psychiatry for both the province and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, said Li continued to attack the obviously deceased McLean based on voices he heard.

"He was terrified, frightened, tormented. Mr. Li's fear, because of what he was being told through these hallucinated voices, is that what he perceived to be the evil being would come back to life, through some supernatural powers and finish him off. He was in a frenzy to prevent this from happening," Yaren said.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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