Defence focuses on mental state at murder trial for Matthew de Grood
Published Wednesday, May 18, 2016 5:27AM MDT Last Updated Wednesday, May 18, 2016 6:43PM MDT
The trial for a man who admitted to killing five young people at a house party two years ago continued in a Calgary courtroom on Wednesday and two psychiatrists who assessed the accused after the killings took the stand for the defence.
Matthew de Grood is charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Joshua Hunter, Lawrence Hong, Zackariah Rathwell, Kaiti Perras and Jordan Segura at a Brentwood area home in April 2014.
De Grood pleaded not guilty to the charges but admitted to killing all five of the victims in an agreed statement of facts that was submitted on the first day of the trial.
On Tuesday, the families of the victims delivered 'tributes' in front of the court to share stories and memories about the victims.
Defence attorney Allan Fay said that the 'tributes' were agreed to by both the defence and Crown and that is was important for the families to have the opportunity to speak.
On Wednesday morning, the Crown closed its case and the defence called its first witness, Dr. Alberto Choy.
Dr. Choy specializes in forensic psychiatry and assessed de Grood at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton in September 2014.
He was called to the stand to offer his opinion on whether or not de Grood met the criteria for being not criminally responsible in the deaths and called the outcome of the case “catastrophic.”
“It is very important that the public know that my client’s not getting any special breaks because his father is a police officer. My client isn’t trying to avail himself of trumped up defence. My client was mentally ill when this occurred to the point that he was incapable of appreciating the moral wrongness of what he was doing and it’s important that they appreciate that,” said Fay.
Choy told the court that substance abuse was not relevant at the time of the killings, based on his own interviews and information he received about the case.
De Grood told Choy that he believed he was at war with werewolves and vampires and Choy said that the accused was eager to tell him about voices he heard in his head that were telling him to do these things.
"There is little doubt in my mind he was psychotic at the time," said Dr. Choy when asked if de Grood had a mental disorder in April 2014.
Court heard that de Grood was on anti-psychotic medication when he was sent to hospital in Edmonton and that he was deemed fit to stand trial by Dr. Choy and did understand the charges against him.
Dr. Choy said that de Grood was "still showing signs and symptoms of a medical disorder" while he was at Alberta Hospital and that it was "highly unlikely he was faking a mental disorder."
“As Dr. Choy testified, he always approaches these assessments with no preconceived notion, he’s alive to the possibility of faking, or malingering as it’s referred to, and at the end of the assessment, as a result of a hearing, everything he did and comparing it with all the information he had, he was satisfied that my client was not faking, there is no malingering taking place here,” said Fay.
Choy went on to say that "sometimes it can take years to determine psychosis" and that there was 'no specific diagnosis why his psychosis was present."
He said it was not clear if his illness at the time was schizophrenia or bipolar disorder and that men in their early 20s can show symptoms of schizophrenia and that it is not uncommon for them to have hallucinations and strange beliefs all of a sudden.
“He basically said that without doing more extensive testing he can’t be sure exactly what label to put on the disorder my client has but he is very sure that my client does suffer from mental disorder of a psychotic kind and when we say psychotic, we mean, that’s associated with disconnection with reality,” said Fay.
Fay says de Grood now understands the moral wrongness of what he did.
“Absolutely, he’s been medicated to the point that he is no longer delusional and that’s the difference. At the time this happened, he was delusional, his psychosis was to the extent that his view of reality was distorted but thanks to the medications he’s received and the treatment he’s received he now appreciates reality in what was happening,” he said.
Dr. Lenka Zedkova also examined de Grood at Alberta Hospital and took the stand on Wednesday afternoon.
She also believed de Grood was psychotic and not in touch with reality at the time of the murders.
Dr. Zedkova told the court that the accused did not know what he was doing was morally wrong and said he thought the ‘illuminati’ was after him.
The case wrapped up for the day at about 3:00 p.m. and the defence is expected to call a psychologist from Edmonton to the stand on Thursday.
According to Alberta Justice, there are about 60,000 criminal arrests in Alberta each year and from April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015, 19 cases were found not criminally responsible or NCR.
Follow live updates from CTV Calgary reporters at the courthouse below: