Defence asks jury to consider manslaughter in London, Ont. terror attack
The defence for Nathaniel Veltman has presented their closing statements to a Windsor, Ont. jury.
Christopher Hicks spent a little over an hour Tuesday morning outlining their defence for Veltman.
The 22-year-old Londoner has pleaded not guilty to four counts of terrorism-motivated first-degree murder and one count of terrorism-motivated attempted murder in the June 2021 attack on a London family.
Four members of the Afzaal family – grandmother Talat, her son Salman, his wife Madiha and their teenage daughter Yumnah – were all killed while a nine-year-old boy suffered serious but survivable injuries.
Veltman admitted at trial that he drove his pickup truck into the family while they waited to cross a London street on June 6, 2021.
FIRST DEGREE VS. SECOND DEGREE VS. MANSLAUGHTER
A conviction on first-degree murder requires the jury to believe, beyond reasonable doubt, an accused person's actions were planned and deliberate.
Hicks told the jury he doesn’t believe the Crown proved these points.
“Thinking is not planning,” Hicks told them, when he referenced the research Veltman did the morning of the attack that compared increased vehicle speeds with increased percentage of injury or death.
Hicks further reminded the jury about the forensic psychiatrist’s evidence about Veltman’s mental illnesses, including obsessive compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorder, personality disorder, depression and complex trauma.
Those combined with the so-called “adverse effects” of consuming psilocybin 40 hours before the attack and the death of his great-grandmother all contributed to Veltman’s detached state at the time of the attack.
The defence also disputed Veltman had a specific intent, which is required for a second-degree murder conviction, according to the Criminal Code of Canada.
"The urge was to drive at them, to drive at Muslims, to crash into them," but not to kill the Afzaal family members, Hicks said to the jury.
He said Veltman believed his mental health would improve if he avenged the atrocities he believed Muslims were committing on white people.
“Nate Veltman had no time to deliberate,” Hicks told the jury. “In his state, he [Veltman] was not capable of appreciating the consequences of his actions."
Hicks asked the jury to consider manslaughter: "When there's a death but a death that's not intentional that manslaughter.”
THE TERRORISM CHARGES
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, terrorism is defined as an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose objective or cause” with the intention of intimidating the public.
The jury heard Veltman wrote a manifesto called ‘A White Awakening,' a lengthy document outlining his political and ideological views about Muslims, immigration and multiculturalism.
In it, he described himself as a “white nationalist.”
The document was last accessed on his computer the morning of the attack.
"Nate Veltman was venting to an imaginary audience and accordingly he did not intimidate a segment of society," Hicks told the jury while also noting the document was never shared with anyone.
Further, Hicks noted "nowhere in ‘A White Awakening’ does Nate Veltman advocate for violence."
THE POLICE STATEMENTS
A pivotal piece of evidence at trial has been the video-taped police statements in which Veltman admitted to his actions and his motivations to avenge alleged Muslim on white crimes he believed were underreported by mainstream media.
The defence referred to those interviews as “interrogations” by London Police Service Det. Micah Bourdeau and called them a “planned exercise to break Nate Veltman.”
"No pillow, no blanket, no heat, no food, no fluids," Hicks said to the jury. “Mr. Veltman was very much alone."
The defence believed police did not have to speak with Veltman in the early morning hours of June 7, 2021 and could have waited until mid-morning.
"Nate Veltman was in custody. He wasn't going anywhere fast," Hicks told them.
The defence believed at the time of his first admission to police, Veltman was suffering from “adverse effects” of consuming psilocybin which left him feeling detached and depersonalized.
The defence also said the Dodge Ram pickup truck Veltman purchased two weeks before the attack is “simply a truck.”
He said Veltman purchased it because he needed a new vehicle for work, that he always had tinted windows and he installed a push bar to protect his vehicle.
“Any suggestions to the contrary on any of these points [by the Crown] lacks any evidence and are speculative in nature," Hicks told the jury.
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