Nfld. & Labrador

Crown, defence agree Graham Veitch not criminally responsible for killing David Collins

It will be up to a judge in St. John's to decide the 21-year-old's fate.

2016 killing not disputed; experts say Veitch was delusional at the time

Lawyers for both the defence and Crown told the court Graham Veitch, 21, should be found not criminally responsible for the murder of David Collins. (Bailey White/CBC)

There is no way to understand Graham Veitch's "explosion of violence" but to accept that it was caused by untreated schizophrenia, said his defence lawyer in Supreme Court on Friday.

Veitch, 21, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his mother's partner, David Collins.

He and his lawyers do not deny that he killed Collins, 55, in their shared home in Logy Bay in December 2016.

In his closing submissions, defence lawyer Mark Gruchy said the two forensic psychiatrists called as experts in the trial against Veitch agreed he has schizophrenia and was not capable of understanding his actions.

It is a "textbook example of what a not criminally responsible case looks like," Gruchy said.

Hearing voices

The defence pointed to an agreed statement of facts, entered into evidence on the first day of Veitch's trial, which included a vivid description of Collins's death, as well as police statements from friends, family and other acquaintances.

Veitch's girlfriend said he was hearing voices, and on one occasion smashed his head into the wall and the floor.

A supervisor at a Boston Pizza where Veitch worked told police Veitch spent entire shifts without speaking, and had trouble following simple instructions.

"Everyone starts seeing it at the same time," Gruchy said of Veitch's personality change. It was spring 2016.

Over the next several months, Gruchy said, Veitch developed a delusion centred on David Collins, a man who was by all accounts likable and easy to get along with.

A photo taken by an RNC officer in an interview room shows an 18-year-old Veitch shortly after he was arrested. The photo is part of a series of exhibits entered into evidence. (CBC)

Veitch became convinced that his mother's partner was a threat to everyone else in his family. No witnesses ever reported any conflict between the two.

In fact, Veitch ate dinner with his mother and Collins just minutes before bludgeoning Collins to death with a hammer.  

After the killing on Cadigan's Road, Veitch told police exactly what he'd done and tried in vain to explain why he did it. He reported striking Collins with a hammer until he believed Collins was dead.

That admission, Crown attorney Jennifer Colford told the court, suggested Veitch did understand the nature of his actions. In other words, he understood that his hammer assault would result in Collins's death.

Still, Colford said the Crown believes Veitch's delusion drove him to act because Veitch believed the killing was both necessary and justified.

"It is the position of the Crown that he should be found not criminally responsible," Colford said.

Evidence 'not contentious'

Justice Sandra Chaytor said the evidence is largely uncontentious, but, she added, there is a lot of it. She said she'd need a few weeks to review everything and write her decision.

"This is indeed a very tragic case," she said.

Chaytor lauded the Crown and defence attorneys for what she described as a sensitive, collaborative approach to the trial.

Collins, 55, died in December 2016. Veitch had developed a delusion about Collins, who by all accounts was well-liked and easy to get along with. (Facebook)

"I just want to thank you for the job that you've done in that respect."

When court was adjourned, Veitch was handcuffed and led out to return to Her Majesty's Penitentiary, where he's spent most of the last 2½ years.

Chaytor will deliver her decision on July 4.

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