Lawyers focus on mental state of man accused in Edmonton stabbing attack

Lawyers focus on mental state of stabbing suspect

EDMONTON — A jury is being urged to consider the mental state of a man accused of killing two co-workers and wounding four others in a bloody knife attack at a grocery warehouse.

Jayme Pasieka has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, including first-degree murder and attempted murder, in the stabbings three years ago.

Defence lawyer Peter Royal said during closing arguments Thursday that jurors should have doubts about whether the Crown’s case meets the test of showing intent for first-degree murder. He suggested they could find Pasieka guilty of manslaughter.

Thierno Bah, 41, and Fitzroy Harris, 50, were killed in the attack.

Royal said the evidence shows Pasieka, 32, suffered from severe schizophrenia and that he told police he didn’t plan to kill and felt sad about what happened.

“This was a man going through a nervous breakdown,” Royal said. “Clearly Mr. Pasieka was severely disturbed at the time.”

Crown prosecutor Kim Goddard told the jury that Pasieka’s mental-health symptoms were mild and evidence shows he planned to end his own suffering by killing others.

Goddard said that on the day of the stabbings Pasieka wore a military-style vest, dressed all in black and left his Edmonton home with two knives. Before going to work, he went to a store at West Edmonton Mall to buy two extra knives and had a normal conversation with a clerk.

When Pasieka arrived at the Loblaws warehouse, he signed in for his shift and put on a sweatshirt to hide the weapons.

Goddard said Pasieka then walked slowly toward a group of co-workers before stabbing people multiple times, aiming for the chest and head.

“Why stab people in the head and chest if you don’t intend to kill them?” Goddard asked as some relatives of the victims quietly sobbed in court.

The prosecutor reminded the jury of the tape of a 911 call made by Pasieka during the stabbings and entered as evidence.

“‘Die. Die’ … That is what you hear on the 911 tape,” Goddard said. “How can it not be that he intends to kill?”

During the trial, Pasieka took the stand in his own defence. He testified that he had been seeing and hearing things in his head for years, including the voice of “the beast.”

He said he had given up on life and thought if he killed someone he would get the help he needed.

A forensic psychiatrist testified that Pasieka would have understood that inflicting severe injury on someone would have led to death. The psychiatrist also said Pasieka was capable of exercising free will and making choices.

Several of the stabbing victims who testified gave different views about Pasieka’s behaviour.

Mahmoud Ayesh described Pasieka as angry and calculated, but not out of control. Others said that, throughout the attack, Pasieka was either yelling or speaking.

“He said he hates us,” testified Axamed Mektar.

Several testified no one at the warehouse had previous problems with the accused.

Justice Donna Shelley was to give her charge to the jury on Thursday afternoon.

John Cotter, The Canadian Press