A Calgary judge has imposed an interim publication ban on the results of a psychiatric assessment that examines whether the accused in Calgary's worst mass killing could be found not criminally responsible.
Crown prosecutors requested the publication ban Friday morning, arguing Matthew de Grood's right to a fair trial trumps the media's right to report on his psychiatric assessment.
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De Grood, 23, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder after the April 15 stabbings at a party near the University of Calgary to mark the end of the school year.
Five young people were killed in the early-morning attack:
- Lawrence Hong, 27.
- Joshua Hunter, 23.
- Kaitlin Perras, 23.
- Zackariah Rathwell, 21.
- Jordan Segura, 22.
"The concern is that this trial will be one before a jury and if that information was received by the public it might potentially pollute the jury pool," said de Grood's lawyer Allan Fay.
Doug King, a professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University, said that although the community was rocked by the deaths, it is important not to rush the process.
"I agree the public has a right to know, but the public has the right to know when the criminal justice system says it's appropriate now for you to know," he said.
Fit to stand trial
De Grood had already been found fit to stand trial on the basis of one mental-health report.
In the case of the second psychiatric assessment, the judge was not convinced the court had jurisdiction to seal it, and asked for examples of case law before imposing an interim ban on the material until Oct. 7.
At that time, the Crown will have to present a proper case for the ban to the court.
It's not common for reports like de Grood's psychiatric assessment to be sealed. If a permanent ban is granted, it means the public would not be able to find out whether a psychiatrist believes de Grood should be found not criminally responsible in the stabbing deaths.
De Grood was held in Edmonton's Alberta Hospital during the assessment, but his mental-health warrant has expired and he is expected to be transferred to the Calgary Remand Centre.
Preliminary hearing set for March
The analysis for the second assessment was completed last month, but was not ready to be disclosed. A forensic psychologist had interviewed de Grood and his parents.
The report would be considered as an expert's opinion during the trial, but the jury would have the final say.
That's why Crown prosecutor Neil Wiberg says the publication ban is important.
"Because this is a murder charge, it is a jury trial, and so in terms of the jury selection pool, that's the concern, that if witness statements are released it may or may not be evidence before the court," he said. "But if that's released, the concern is that could affect the selection of the jury and affect the accused's rights to a fair trial."
De Grood's lawyer said in August that his client was on medication but is becoming more lucid about the events of that day in April.
Families of victims, de Grood appear in court
Wiberg said a preliminary hearing is scheduled for March.
The victims' families have been showing up for many of the court appearances so far.
"They're obviously extremely distraught," said Wiberg. "They were five outstanding young people that were murdered in this case, so obviously they're very upset. We've had meetings with the family face-to-face explaining the process. The police also contact them on other occasions so they know what the court appearances are about."
De Grood's parents have also been coming to court.
"It is difficult for them," said Fay. "Obviously they're very aware of the scrutiny that's on them, but they feel it's important for them to continue to show that not only do they support their son but their sympathy and compassion for the victims in this matter."