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Calgary mass killer Matthew de Grood seeks 'absolute discharge'

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The man who was found not criminally responsible in the stabbing deaths of five people at a house party in Brentwood more than nine years ago is seeking more freedoms.

Matthew de Grood has applied to the Alberta Court of Appeal for an absolute discharge.

According to the Government of Canada, that means the court would find him discharged of the offences with no conviction registered.

"Conditional or absolute discharges may only be ordered for less serious offences," the justice department said.

De Grood was arrested on April 15, 2014, in connection with the fatal stabbings of Joshua Hunter, Kaiti Perras, Jordan Segura, Lawrence Hong and Zackariah Rathwell.

He was found not criminally responsible on May 25, 2016, after it was determined he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the killings.

Since then, he's been held under supervision and his case has been reviewed on an annual basis by the Alberta Review Board (ARB).

This most recent appeal comes from a request from de Grood's lawyer last year, who requested the ARB's most recent decision that stated he must remain detained at either Edmonton's Alberta Hospital or the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Centre in Calgary.

De Grood's lawyer, Jacqueline Petrie, contended the decision was unreasonable because of "procedural unfairness" and a "reasonable apprehension of bias."

Matthew de Grood, appearing in Calgary court on April 22, 2014, is shown in this artist's sketch. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Janice Fletcher)

Speaking outside of the court in Edmonton, some family members say this latest appeal in addition to the ARB review has left them feeling re-traumatized and overlooked.

"He's not happy where he is, but that's too bad. He killed five people," said Barclay Hunter.

"We're not happy where our kids are either," said Kelly Hunter.

"We have no healing. Because we do this every year."

"Nobody ever thinks about the families. Like, I've been stressed about this for days," said Patty Segura.

Segura says the nine years since April 2014 have felt focused on de Grood.

"Nobody ever asks us in the courtroom about our stress level. Nobody ever asks us about that."

If granted, the discharge would have no conditions.

Some criminal justice experts say developments toward freedoms and privileges can be a reminder of the tension between victims and offenders, also noting de Grood's matter is being dealt with outside the criminal justice system, because of his status as not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

"The question then becomes about victims' rights versus offender rights, versus public rights, versus the rights in the criminal justice system," said Doug King, justice studies professor at Mount Royal University.

He says Canada's corrections system has been designed to serve as a rehabilitation tool.

King says there is research to demonstrate that a staged reintegration into society, via methods like day parole, has provided evidence of more successful outcomes and increased public safety.

"Punishment does not necessarily deter. More severe punishment actually creates a greater risk of reoffending," said King.

Of de Grood, King says more transparency from officials about processes within review board hearings, parole and corrections can help improve public understanding of how these systems are intended to benefit society.

(With files from the Canadian Press) 

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