Matthew de Grood trial's unique 'irregularities' deserve praise, prof says
Legal teams took steps to make it 'a little bit easier' on the families, Michael Nesbitt says
The judge and legal teams involved in the Matthew de Grood murder trial should be applauded for taking the unusual step of allowing the victims' family members to address the court, says a University of Calgary law professor.
"There have been a number of irregularities within the process of the trial that have been fairly interesting, mostly with respect to allowing the families of the victims to speak and give statements during the process," Prof. Michael Nesbitt told The Calgary Eyeopener.
"It's just not something you normally see," he said.
"Victims can be left behind very much in the criminal justice system, so I think all of them, the judge, the defence and the Crown in this case, should be applauded for taking this unusual step to make things maybe a little bit easier for the families."
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Relatives of the five victims — Lawrence Hong, 27, Joshua Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, Zackariah Rathwell, 21, and Jordan Sequra, 22 — addressed the court on the second day of the trial, reading emotional statements paying tribute to their loved ones and sharing the impact the slayings have had.
Many of those in the courtroom were moved to tears.
Victim statements usually follow guilty verdict
De Grood, 24, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of first-degree murder, despite admitting that he fatally stabbed the five victims at a house party in 2014.
Two psychiatrists who treated de Grood at the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton have testified he was likely suffering a psychotic episode at the time, as de Grood told them he felt he was fighting a war against vampires and werewolves.
Victim impact statements are normally heard after a guilty verdict and before sentencing.
"In this case, of course, these statements took place during the trial and the reason that doesn't normally happen is because you're worried about biasing a judge or jury as to the findings," Nesbitt said.
"In this case it's a little different, because you had an admission right off the bat, as to essentially all the facts, the accused committed the acts."
Winning the NCR defence
The defence has tried to prove that de Grood was not criminally responsible for his actions.
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"What they will have to show is the accused didn't appreciate … or didn't know what he was doing was morally wrong," Nesbitt said.
"So really, what it's going to be about is his capacity to understand either what he was doing would result in death or to understand that what he was doing was wrong."
If de Grood is found not criminally responsible, Nesbitt said prosecutors could seek a high-risk designation.
"First of all, it means the disposition will require that the accused will be hospitalized," he said.
"In some situations, there's a possibility the accused could, for example, go home on conditions, which probably wouldn't happen in this case."
Usually there is a review once a year to determine whether the person should remain in hospital or be allowed out on occasion, Nesbitt said.
"In this case it can be up to every three years and finally, when they're in the hospital, it makes it very difficult to get out on a day pass or leave the hospital for any particular reason," he said.
With files from The Calgary Eyeopener