Only one verdict possible: judge

Killer ruled not responsible for grisly deed


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Some have called for the return of the death penalty. Others have advocated something even worse. But in the end, a Manitoba judge said there was only one outcome to the tragic Greyhound murder case.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/03/2009 (5127 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Some have called for the return of the death penalty. Others have advocated something even worse. But in the end, a Manitoba judge said there was only one outcome to the tragic Greyhound murder case.

"Clearly there is a logical reason for the law, and indeed for society, to distinguish between persons who are sane and those who are not," Justice John Scurfield said Thursday as he found Vincent Li not criminally responsible for the July 2008 killing of 22-year-old Tim McLean.

"Persons who are profoundly ill do not have the mental capacity to intentionally commit a crime.

"The goal of criminal law is to punish criminals, not persons who have a severe mental illness," he said.

Li claims he was acting under commands from God to attack a "demon" or else he would be executed. He believed that "evil force" was McLean, a complete stranger who was asleep in his seat when Li sat down beside him.

"These grotesque acts are appalling. However, the acts themselves and the context in which they were committed are strongly suggestive of a mental disorder. He did not appreciate the actions he committed were morally wrong. He believed he was acting in self-defence," said Scurfield.

Li showed no emotion at the verdict and was quietly led away by sheriff’s officers. He will appear before a 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.

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 Li will be closely monitored and not allowed to return to the community unless they are certain he doesn’t pose a risk to society.

Scurfield’s verdict wasn’t surprising, considering the only evidence during the trial called for the NCR finding.

Dr. Jonathan Rootenberg, a forensic psychiatrist who met with Li at the request of his lawyers, told court Li was "quite psychotic" and didn’t know what he was doing when he attacked McLean.

"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," he said.

He agreed with the Crown’s only witness, Dr. Stanley Yaren, that Li is 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.

Yaren described Li as an otherwise "decent person" who was clearly out of his mind while being "tormented by auditory hallucinations." He said Li continued to defile McLean’s body — including eating some of his body parts — because he believed the victim would somehow come back to life and "finish him off."

Scurfield said he believes Li still poses a "significant" risk to reoffend if he were to be quickly released or stop taking his medication.

"No doubt that factor, together with Mr. Li’s history of extreme violence, will weigh heavily on any future application for release from a secure institution," he said.

Defence lawyer Alan Libman said his client has expressed a desire to "get better" and will fully co-operate with his doctors.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

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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