There was something so noble about that family and those friends.
They were there for the last step of the process that saw Rohinie Bisesar on Tuesday formally declared not criminally responsible in the Dec. 11, 2015 first-degree murder of Rosemarie (Kim) Junor.
There was no issue that Bisesar stabbed Junor and caused her death, only whether her major mental illness, schizophrenia, had robbed her of the capacity to realize that her conduct was morally and legally wrong.
It had done, of course: Bisesar had been ill for at least a year before she attacked Junor, a stranger shopping in a Shoppers Drug Mart in Toronto’s financial district. She regularly heard “command hallucinations” (on this awful day to get a knife and then to use it); she believed she was implanted or “infected” with nanotechnology that controlled her body’s movement; the voices were a cacophony in her head.
But how bizarre the process must have seemed to those who loved Junor, not merely the ruling itself, but the discussion of where Bisesar would be sent and what “privileges” she would or wouldn’t have.
For instance, theoretically, Ontario Superior Court Judge John McMahon could have given Bisesar an absolute discharge, a conditional one or, and this is what he did, order her into secure custody at a hospital.
But when he first mentioned the options in court, Bisesar’s lawyer, Robert Karrass, conferred with his client for several long minutes.
When they finished whispering, Karrass told the judge that “while she (Bisesar) is anxious to be discharged into the community,” they recognized she should stay in custody.
McMahon quickly reassured the room that he wasn’t for a minute going to discharge her, but it was nonetheless a jarring moment, the realization that Bisesar, 43, is so keen to restart her life.
Sometimes, outside the courtroom in the halls, one or another of the family raged about all this, calling the process a circus.
But when it came time for them to give their victim impact statements, they honoured their daughter/friend/cousin, and spoke only of the effect of their loss, and played by the rules in the Criminal Code which govern what a victim impact statement may say.
As McMahon said afterwards — he’s efficient, on time and blessed with exquisite manners and a generous heart — “I doubt there’s a person in this courtroom who doesn’t wish they could turn the clock back, and I include in that group Ms. Bisesar.”
The kindness was typical of McMahon.
Bisesar herself, sitting on the edge of her chair in the prisoner’s box with posture so perfect she could have been a child, appeared unaffected.
She has been deemed well now, her symptoms in full remission or almost. But schizophrenia is a lifelong illness.
McMahon ordered her to be returned to the secure unit of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (where she has been since February and where she got as well as she has) pending a hearing at the Ontario Review Board, the tribunal responsible for assessing those found NCR.
Her privileges will consist of being able to access the hospital grounds if escorted and staff being allowed to move her about within the hospital.
But McMahon said he was “not prepared” to allow her to “enter the community of Toronto,” even with an escort, until she has had a risk assessment at the hospital and a hearing at the ORB.
As for Junor, though just 28, she inspired an outpouring of love and grief.
Her big brother Richard said she was beautiful and smart and would “bright” up a room. She was his favourite sibling (there were four of them once, now three) and he said he’d cherish forever the image of her in her school uniform, with two little ponytails. Coming to Canada (from Trinidad) was good for them all, he said.
Two cousins, including the lovely young woman who last spoke about Junor at her Aug. 2, 2015 wedding, talked about the powerful bonds they had with her. They are a big, close family, she said, with great faith, but even that has been tested.
The other cousin, Liz, first met Junor “when they first came from Trinidad, on a cold winter night, and I remember that like it was yesterday.” The two, just a year apart, grew up together, made plans together: They would marry and buy houses close together and raise their kids so they could be close too.
Junor was the first to get married, and then she and her new husband Lenny Persaud, “the love of her life,” moved to Liz’s neighbourhood. They were only seven minutes away from one another, but when Liz got married in May of 2017, “Kim was not there by my side, like we planned.”
On and on it went like this, the room filled with the sounds of people, family and strangers alike, weeping at the magnitude of the loss.
Nothing was so wrenching, though, as the sight of Junor’s mom and dad, Rosalind and Douglas, she sitting in the witness box, he standing over her.
Rosalind read the statement. She said Kim Junor was a daddy’s girl. She would call her father every single day. He would fix her car. If she needed something from the store, he’d go and get it for her.
When, one day, she told her mom “I met somebody and he’s so cute. ‘Is he more cute than dad?’” the mother asked. And Junor said, “No, dad is more cute.”
Rosalind read it. Douglas just stood over her, weeping, wiping the tears from his face. He needed his whole arm to do it.
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