Alek Minassian, the man who intentionally carried out a van attack in Toronto that killed 10 people and injured 16 others, has been found guilty to all 26 counts including 16 counts of attempted murder and 10 counts of first-degree murder.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Justice Anne Molloy’s judgment was delivered via video conference and broadcast on YouTube.
On Wednesday, Molloy said Minassian sought media attention as part of the 2018 Toronto van attack. She says she no longer wishes the accused be named, instead referring to him as “John Doe” during the live stream.
Molloy said April 23, 2018, was a beautiful day in Toronto. Residents were out in abundance, going about their business.
“Unfortunately, April 23, 2018, was also the date selected by John Doe, weeks in advance, that he would kill as many residents as possible.”
Molloy said Minassian sought to be killed by responding officers immediately following the attack. Instead, he was taken into custody at the scene.
The key issue at Minassian’s trial, which began November 2020 without a jury, was whether he had the capacity at the time of the attack to make a rational choice.
He argued he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions due to his autism spectrum disorder.
Molloy, who acknowledged that Minassian was diagnosed with autism at a young age, said there is no connection between Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to criminality.
Did he lack the capacity to rationally evaluate what he was doing at the time?
“It is clear to me that Mr. Doe knew his actions would be seen as morally wrong.”
Minassian’s lawyer Boris Bytensky says the focus should not be on his client today.
“The focus today, as it should have been all along, shouldn’t be on Mr. Minassian,” said Bytensky. “We should take this opportunity that the victims are the victims and they should forever remain at the forefront of our thoughts.”
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Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement shortly after Justice Molloy’s verdict, saying while there will never be full closure for the families of the victims, the proceedings and decision will help.
“My focus today – as it has been every day since this terrible tragedy – is on those 10 innocent people who lost their lives, on the 16 innocent people who were injured, and all the friends, families, bystanders, whose lives were forever changed,” said Tory’s statement, in part.
“… Make no mistake, this was an attack fuelled by misogyny and hatred of women and should be treated as such. We must all stand up against this kind of hateful behaviour and those who promote it.”
“Today, I want to remind residents of the names of those lives lost which bear repeating so that we will never forget them: Renuka Amarasingha, Andrea Bradden, Geraldine Brady, Anne Marie D’Amico, Sohe Chung, Betty Forsyth, Chul Min “Eddie” Kang, Ji Hun Kim, Munir Najjar, and Dorothy Sewell,” Tory’s statement read.
My statement on today’s verdict in the Yonge Street Tragedy trial pic.twitter.com/FYnl1lYc1r
— John Tory (@JohnTory) March 3, 2021
Three weeks before the attack, Minassian booked a rental van for the day after he completed his final college exam.
Around 1:30 p.m. on a bright and warm April day almost three years ago, 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.
Minassian tried to fool an approaching police officer by pulling his wallet, pretending it was a gun, but it didn’t work.
“I’m a murdering piece of shit,” Minassian told the booking officer shortly thereafter.
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.
Joe Callaghan, the lead Crown attorney, called Molloy’s decision a “fair and just result.”
Turning to some of the victims and their supporters assembled behind him outside a Toronto courthouse, Callaghan commended them for their resilience.
“Despite your continuing pain and trauma from this horrific attack, you showed us how love and humanity can prevail.”
The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., had pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.
The Crown argued that Minassian is a mass killer who knew right from wrong and happens to have autism.
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But the defence argued that because of autism, Minassian never developed empathy, and that lack of empathy left him incapable of rational choice.
When asked if he had anything to say about the attack, he stated, “I feel like I accomplished my mission.”
Molloy says it was clear that Minassian wanted to hit these people and murder them. He carried out that plan, killing 10 people and injuring 16 others.
“There is no doubt he planned this,” she said on the live stream.
Molloy says the experts agree that Mr. Doe was not psychotic during the attack and was fully aware of what he was doing when driving the van, knowing it would result in many deaths.
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 evil.
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.
Following his arrest, “Mr. Doe” made statements that included he set out to kill people that day and deliberately chose a van that would invoke “maximum damage.”
He admitted he was motivated by the incel movement and hated women, Molloy said.
Minassian’s lawyer says he understands Molloy’s rationale for not naming his client by name during the verdict.
“Ultimately I understand why she did it,” Bytensky said. “Don’t forget before the trial really began, our position was to not permit certain videos to be released to the public for many of the same reasons that she ultimately didn’t want to publish his name.”
“So I have no quarrel with the fact that she didn’t wish to refer him by name. I understand that” he said.
Today’s verdict is a step forward in a long, painful case that impacted our city. I am proud of @TorontoPolice members who responded that day & cont’d to see this case through. Everything we did was guided by our drive to bring justice to victims/families. https://t.co/GkcRMmaY3m
— Chief James Ramer (@jamesramertps) March 3, 2021
Two other forensic psychiatrists concluded Minassian did not meet the test to be found not criminally responsible.
“In the wake of this attack, we vowed that we would stand together as a city to support each other – strong and united against the evil we saw that day,”
We vowed that we would not be broken. Let us renew that vow today and go forward committed to protecting one another and doing everything we can to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again.”
With files from The Canadian Press