Credit to Author: Manisha Krishnan| Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 23:12:40 GMT
As Alek Minassian plowed into a crowd of pedestrians on a busy Toronto street with a rental van, he was “wishing for more female victims,” a forensic psychiatrist who interviewed Minassian after the attack testified at his murder trial Wednesday.
Rebecca Chauhan, a forensic psychiatrist at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, was the first doctor to testify at Minassian’s trial, as his defence laid out its case for why Minassian is “not criminally responsible” for 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.
Minassian’s defence is trying to show, on a balance of probabilities, that his autism left him unable to tell right from wrong when he killed 10 people and injured 16 others when he drove into them on April 23, 2018.
Chauhan, who primarily works with children and adolescents, assessed Minassian using autism diagnostic tools, including interviews with him and his family members, and asking him to complete tasks.
She told the court she doesn’t think Minassian appreciates the “magnitude of this highly violent offence,” nor did he show any remorse. However, she said he did fully understand that killing people is against the law.
Chauhan said Minassian, who claims he’s an “incel” (involuntary celibate), told her that while he was running people over, he was “hoping there would be more young attractive females being hurt in particular.” She said he felt “happy” after the attack and that it was “worth it” because he managed to get attention.
Chauhan said Minassian has average intelligence, but major deficits in his moral reasoning, particularly when it comes to more complicated situations. She said he is also hyper focused or fixated on certain things, including the manifesto on Eliot Rodger, the man who went on a shooting and stabbing spree in Isla Vista, California, in 2014 and was later hailed an incel hero.
Chauhan said while Minassian was discussing the rampage and its aftermath, “there was no emotion.” She described him as suffering from “mind blindness”—an inability to grasp how other people think and feel and why they would be distressed.
For example, she said Minassian had no emotion when he mentioned that his mother had a “strange smile” and his father was “looking downcast and shocked.”
“His understanding of why his parents would be feeling such a way seemed very limited,” Chauhan testified.
Chauhan said not everyone with autism who struggles with moral reasoning is unable to tell right from wrong.
She said Minsasian told her that he developed an “intense fear of being rejected by females” dating back to middle school, when he noticed a change in the girls around him.
He told Chauhan he felt like girls were talking behind his back and laughing at him, so he developed a “goofy act,” including putting on a silly voice, which he carried into high school.
“He would talk about how he loved males,” Chauhan said.
He also talked about trying to strike up a conversation with a woman at a library while he was at Seneca College, but she “politely declined,” Chauhan said.
He told her that, dating back to high school, when he felt particularly down, he would do internet searches on primarily school shootings, high school shootings, and general mass shootings.
She said he also fixated on the similarities between himself and Rodger, including an autism diagnosis, relationship struggles, and loneliness, and didn’t seem to notice their differences.
She said at the end of 2017, as Minassian was about to complete his final school semester, he was getting more nervous about not being able to succeed in a work environment after graduating.
He described constantly thinking about Rodger at that time, “reading the manifesto over and over,” Chauhan said, and started to fantasize about shooting people.
“He talked about his lack of a girlfriend always being on his mind,” Chauhan said.
He told her he was thinking about how the people who thought he was “nothing” would think “Oh, Alek Minassian had managed to kill a lot of people.”
She said April 23 was the day after he completed his final school assignment and the day before he was meant to start work.
He said he didn’t consider what would happen after, “because he thought he would die.”
Chauhan said Minassian also claimed he tried to end his life in prison by swallowing liquid soap.
A psychiatrist report referenced in the trial last week by Minassian’s defence said, “Despite the fact he was not psychotic, his autistic way of thinking was severely distorted similar to psychosis.”
The advocacy group Autism Canada put out a statement condemning that claim.
“There is no psychosis in ASD and no tendency to anti-social behaviour any more than in the general population. I think you would not get any serious objection from the academic community on that account.” Dr. Peter Szatmari, chief of Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative CAMH, said in the statement.
“These claims are wholly unsubstantiated, merely speculative, and made carelessly without any published evidence proving autism, on its own, is a risk factor for becoming violent against other people,” the statement said.
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