There is 'no way' Minassian would 'score anywhere near psychopathy,' psychiatrist says
TORONTO -- A defence psychiatrist who testified that he does not believe Alek Minassian meets the criteria for a finding of not criminally responsible (NCR) for planning and carrying out the 2018 van attack wrapped up his testimony on Friday morning following a very brief cross-examination from the Crown.
When Dr. John Bradford, a prominent Canadian forensic psychiatrist, returned to the stand at Minassian’s trial on Friday morning, Crown prosecutor John Rinaldi had one question for him.
Rinaldi asked Bradford whether or not he believes the legal test for NCR is about “knowing” moral wrongfulness or “appreciating” moral wrongfulness.
Knowing moral wrongfulness, Bradford acknowledged, is the legal test.
On Thursday, Bradford testified that from the perspective of a forensic psychiatrist, he does not believe Minassian’s autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis is sufficient to prove that he is not criminally responsible for his actions.
Under Sec. 16 of the Criminal Code, a person is NCR if they were suffering from a mental disorder that rendered them “incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.”
Psychosis, he said, is the conventional diagnosis for a finding of NCR under Sec. 16 of the Criminal Code.
"It was clear very early on that he was not psychotic," Bradford said of Minassian.
Bradford said while Minassian showed ritualistic behaviour that was consistent with his ASD diagnosis, there were no signs of delusional behaviour or psychosis and no history of psychosis reported by family or other sources.
Minassian has already admitted to killing 10 people and wounding 16 others when he drove a rented cargo van on sidewalks along a busy stretch of Yonge Street in North York and deliberately struck pedestrians in his path.
Minassian’s lawyer, Boris Bytensky, argues that Minassian does meet the legal test for NCR as he only understood the moral wrongfulness of his actions on an “intellectual” level.
Bytensky has said the sole diagnosis that will be relied on in this case is ASD and one expert is expected to testify that Minassian's "austic way of thinking" was "similar to psychosis."
Bradford told the court Friday that when he assessed Minassian, he knew this would be an “unusual” case.
“This is a unique case with someone who has no autism co-morbidity who has carried out a mass homicide and lived,” he said.
He added that he could only find one example where ASD was the sole diagnosis used in an NCR case in Canada, and that case, which involved the issue of consent, was not properly tested in court.
He said while he is of the opinion that Minassian does not meet the test for NCR, he felt inclined to acknowledge in his report that others may have differing opinions.
Bradford said that some experts who have more clinical experience with patients with ASD may argue that there is a “pathway” to NCR outside the traditional diagnosis of psychosis.
He noted that while ASD is "a significant mental disorder," he doesn't believe it has the same impact on the operating mind as psychosis.
"It (psychosis) is something that, once it takes hold, is a profound condition that takes over a person's operating mind," Bradford said. "I can't get my head around how this (ASD) would have an impact on a person's operating mind that would get them to Section 16. That is my opinion."
Bradford also told the court this week that he does not believe Minassian is a psychopath.
He said while he did not conduct a Psychopathy Checklist- Revised (PCL-R) test on Minassian, he has conducted the test many times and there was “no way” Minassian would "score anywhere near psychopathy."
The judge asked Bradford to clarify whether a psychopath who knew something was wrong but didn’t care could be considered not criminally responsible for their actions.
“There was a time, a long time ago, where psychopathy might have been an entry point,” he said, noting that contemporary forensic psychiatrists would not support psychopathy as a basis for NCR now.
The trial will resume on Monday morning with testimony from Dr. Alexander Westphal, the last witness for the defence and the only one who is expected to testify that Minassian is not criminally responsible for his actions.