British Columbia

Accused killer of Abbotsford teen will not testify, defence says in court

The trial of a man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl in the halls of an Abbotsford high school in November 2016 took a sudden turn Monday as the defence team announced it would not call any evidence.

Lawyer plans to argue Gabriel Klein should not be held criminally responsible for killing Letisha Reimer

Thirteen-year-old Letisha Reimer died after being stabbed at her high school in Abbotsford. Gabriel Klein is charged with second-degree murder. (Ulrich Reimer/Facebook)

The trial of a man accused of murdering a 13-year-old girl in the halls of an Abbotsford high school in November 2016 took a sudden turn Monday as the defence team announced it would not call any evidence.

Gabriel Klein's lawyer had previously indicated that Klein planned to testify on his own behalf.

But on what was expected to be his client's first day on the stand, Martin Peters told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes there had been a change in plans and the defence would instead not call any evidence.

There is no dispute that Klein stabbed Letisha Reimer and a friend repeatedly in November 2016 after approaching the girls through a hallway that connected Abbotsford's library with Abbotsford Senior Secondary School.

The 24-year-old is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault.

But Peters plans to argue that Klein should be found not criminally responsible for the teen's death because of a mental disorder.

Klein has been diagnosed with schizophrenia since the incident.

Peters did not give any reason for Klein's decision not to testify.

'NCR' defence mentioned

One of two lawyers for the Crown told Holmes the change in plans had taken them by surprise as well. The case is now adjourned until next Monday, when three days of final arguments are expected to begin.

The trial had previously heard dramatic evidence from the survivor of the attack as well as from witnesses who held Reimer and tried to comfort her in the moments before she died.

Gabriel Klein was captured on camera hours before stabbing Letisha Reimer in November 2016. He plans to argue that he should not be held criminally responsible. (IHIT/Twitter)

Other witnesses testified that Klein had appeared in a hospital emergency room the day before the trial complaining of scratches to his hands. He was treated and released and a social worker helped him find a place in a shelter.

Klein was detained and arrested immediately after the stabbing. 

He was later admitted to Surrey Memorial Hospital's psychiatric ward after concerns were raised about self-harming behaviour, including banging his head repeatedly during the hours after his arrest.

Klein remained mute for several days before finally speaking to a psychiatrist, who testified that he told her he planned to argue that he was not criminally responsible and mentioned the "NCR" defence several times.

In order to be declared not criminally responsible, a defendant has to prove that they were either unaware of their actions or unable to distinguish right from wrong.

The psychiatrist testified that she worried Klein might be exaggerating his symptoms in order to support his case.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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