Both sides agree Almestadi not criminally responsible for Totem Park attack

For the past two weeks, Thamer Almestadi, 19, has been on trial for attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon in connection with an attack that took place on October 4, 2016 on a fellow UBC student.

Monday, both Crown counsel Daniel Porte and Almestadi’s defence counsel presented similar submissions to BC Supreme Court Judge Margo Fleming: that Almestadi should be found not criminally responsible (NCR) for his attack on Mary Hare.

Almestadi’s defence emphasized that for the sake of her argument, the testimony of Dr. Jeannette Smith is “paramount.” A forensic psychology and criminal responsibility expert, Smith previously testified that she agreed with an NCR verdict based on the evidence and her own meetings with Almestadi.

“[Smith’s] opinion should be accorded great weight,” said the defence. “The evidence available to her was comprehensive.”

Keeping in mind the two legal components of NCR cases — an incapability of appreciating the nature and quality of the act and an incapability of comprehending the morality of the act — his defence asserted that Almestadi’s mental health at the time caused him to fall under these parameters.

Both Smith and another psychiatrist, who examined Almestadi but did not testify to the court, agreed that while it is likely that Almestadi appreciated the nature and quality of his act — he testified that he was trying to kill Hare and would have if he wasn’t stopped — he did not appreciate the morality of it.

Smith noted that in her expert opinion, Almestadi was suffering from a month-long “brief pyschotic episode” (BPE) that produced delusions that aligned attacking Hare with the will of God. The BPE could have been triggered by stress. This aligns with the testimony of witnesses, she said, including Almestadi’s RA, his teachers, his family and other students.

During her submission, Almestadi’s defence counsel argued that often, legal defences that fall under section 16 of the Canadian Criminal Code and pertain to NCR are often “complicated and nuanced, but [this case] is not.”

Porte noted that while he may not agree with each individual piece of evidence as supporting a not criminally responsible argument, he agrees with the tenure of it.

Judge Fleming will present her decision to the court on Thursday, October 26.