Following victim impact statements, second sentencing hearing for Eaton Centre shooter continues
Published Wednesday, August 7, 2019 9:25AM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, August 7, 2019 5:31PM EDT
After it began with the reading of emotional victim impact statements, the second sentencing hearing for Christopher Husbands, who opened fire inside the Toronto Eaton Centre in the summer of 2012, continued on Wednesday.
Two men were killed in the shooting – 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan died on the floor inside the busy downtown mall, while 22-year-old Nixon Nirmalendran died in hospital nine days after the incident.
Six others, including Connor Stevenson, were injured in the shooting. Stevenson, then 13 years old, was shot in the head as 14 rounds were fired off inside the food court of the shopping centre.
Connor Stevenson is seen wearing a helmet as his Grade 8 graduation. (Court exhibit provided the Stevenson family)
Husbands was first convicted on two counts of second-degree murder in the shooting, but a new trial was ordered for him as it was later found that the judge had made an error in law regarding jury selection.
In February 2019, Husbands was retired and found guilty on the lesser charges of two counts of manslaughter and five counts of aggravated assault, along with one count each of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and reckless discharge of a firearm.
Husbands previously admitted to being the shooter in the incident but his lawyers argued he should be found not criminally responsible due to mental illness. His defence team said Husbands was in a dissociative state at the time due to post-traumatic stress disorder and did not have control over his actions.
After victim impact statements were read in the courtroom on the first day of the second sentencing hearing, the Stevenson family said the judicial system has been upsetting and made the healing process worse for them.
Christopher Husbands is seen looking on as victim impact statements are read by the Stevenson family in court on August 6, 2019. (CTV News Toronto / John Mantha)
“I think what has changed my life the most is actually seeing how this trial process has gone,” Stevenson said while standing beside his parents on Tuesday. “I thought I lived in Canada, I thought we had a system where people who murdered people in the middle of a mall in Canada go to jail for it and not be out in seven or 10 years.”
“That’s what really changed my life – it changed my view of the country we live.”
The second day of the hearing saw Husbands explain living conditions at Don Jail in Toronto. The Crown Attorney and Judge listened to Husbands detail the circumstances he described as intolerable.
Prosecutors said in June of this year that they will be seeking a life sentence for Husbands, noting the killings should be considered “near murder.”
Police set up a perimeter outside the Eaton Centre following a shooting at the shopping mall in Toronto on June 2, 2012. (The Canadian Press / Victor Biro)
Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without the chance of parole for seven years.
Husbands has spent seven years behind bars and will be credited for time already served.