NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – A defence lawyer says his client’s ongoing psychosis makes him unfit to stand trial for the murder of a high school girl in Abbotsford, B.C.
Martin Peters said Gabriel Klein can’t meaningfully participate in a trial because he has reported hearing voices, has difficulty communicating because of his disordered thinking, and the stress of a trial could cause his mental state to deteriorate further.
Klein is accused of the second-degree murder of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer and the aggravated assault of a second Grade 9 female student who were attacked in the lobby of Abbotsford Senior Secondary in November 2016.
Klein was 21-years-old when he was arrested. He did not speak or respond to questions in his first three court appearances.
“Mr. Klein submits that his inability to meaningfully participate in his trial renders him unfit,” Peters said in B.C. Supreme Court hearing Thursday.
Justice Heather Holmes is expected to rule Friday on whether Klein is mentally fit to face the allegations at trial.
Crown lawyer Rob Macgowan told the judge that the question before the court is this: is it more likely at trial that at times Klein would meet the criteria for being unfit.
“If the court accepts evidence establishing on a balance of probabilities that there will be times during the trial when the accused is not likely fit, the Crown is essentially not opposed to a finding that he is not fit,” Macgowan said.
On Wednesday, Klein’s psychiatrist, Dr. Marcel Hediger, testified that he believes his patient has schizophrenia and is “actively psychotic.”
Hediger said Klein thinks the CIA is following and trying to kill him, and that corrections staff are trying to poison him through his medication.
The psychiatrist said he did two assessments of Klein and determined that at those times the man was “not unfit” to stand trial.
But he noted the man’s mental state is variable and very fragile, and his psychosis had worsened in the past two weeks.
“Mr. Klein reported to me that he was hearing voices and the voices were telling him at the time to rape and harm one of his co-patients,” Hediger said. “Mr. Klein had, in a period just before that, actually entered another patient’s room and urinated on the patient’s pillow and his bed.”
The doctor said Klein had also told him he killed one person and seriously hurt another.
Hediger told the hearing it was “fairly likely” that the stress of a drawn-out trial would cause Klein’s state to deteriorate to a point where he would be unable to follow the proceedings or communicate with his lawyer.
That evidence is essential to determining fitness for trial, said Klein’s lawyer.
“The testimony from Dr. Hediger establishes that in a stressful environment like in a courtroom during a murder trial, Mr. Klein will have difficulties meaningfully participating,” Peters said.
Peters asked the court Thursday to remand Klein to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam, where he has been treated four times since he was arrested.
If the judge finds the man fit, his trial on the murder and assault charges will begin on May 7.