Warning: graphic content
Johnny Klassen may have a mental disorder, but he still knew that stomping on his father’s head and fatally slashing his neck during an argument was wrong, a Saskatoon judge has ruled.
Because Klassen Jr. was capable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act, he was legally responsible and is therefore guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of his father, Johan Klassen Sr., Justice Gerald Allbright ruled on Friday in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench.
The 28-year-old man had previously admitted he killed his father, 53-year-old Johan Klassen Sr., on Nov. 2, 2016. The Crown argued Klassen’s intent to kill made it murder, but defence lawyer Erin Little argued Klassen Jr.’s history of apparent mental illness could form the basis for a finding that he was not criminally responsible.
During closing arguments earlier this year, Crown prosecutor Dorinda Stahl said the only evidence of Klassen having a mental disorder comes from him and his two brothers, who testified at trial. She said there is no direct medical evidence that diagnoses Klassen as having schizophrenia.
Allbright said during sentencing arguments that Klassen displayed signs of schizophrenia during a nonsensical monologue when he was left alone in an interview room at the end of his police confession. Court heard Klassen was hospitalized and prescribed medication six days before killing Johan.
However, the defence of mental disorder is hard to establish when the absence of evidence Klassen was in the midst of a schizophrenic episode leading up to or during the offence, Allbright noted.
Little argued it was “very likely” Klassen had a mental disorder at the time of the offence. Because of Klassen’s mental health issues, Little argued that a manslaughter verdict was also available. She acknowledged, however, the challenge in arguing that a person who slashed someone’s throat 15 times didn’t intend to kill them.
There was evidence of Klassen’s mounting resentment toward his father’s alcoholism and alleged physical abuse, Stahl said. Klassen’s brothers said Klassen had previously attacked their father — who reported it to police — and that the day before Johan died, one of his sons told him Klassen was going to kill him.
Even if Klassen does have schizophrenia, that does not mean he was unaware of his wrongdoing, Stahl said during closing arguments.
“There’s no evidence of delusions of imminent danger of Johnny being killed, that it deluded him into believing that it was his right to kill.”
Klassen Jr. was issued a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 10 years. Allbright noted that because Klassen Jr. has been in custody for approximately two years, the sentence will run from that date.
Allbright made what he called a “strong” recommendation that Klassen Jr. serve his sentence at the Regional Psychiatric Centre rather than a federal penitentiary.
— With StarPhoenix files from Bre McAdam
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