TORONTO (AP) — The prosecution at the trial of the man who killed 10 people in Toronto’s van attack says Alek Minassian was a mass murderer who happened to have autism spectrum disorder.
Prosecutor Joe Callaghan said Friday in closing arguments that the disorder did not make Minassian carry out the 2018 attack.
Rather, Callaghan argues, Minassian knew what he was doing was wrong.
Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. His lawyer argues he is not criminally responsible for his actions on April 23, 2018, due to autism spectrum disorder.
He is accused of driving a rental van into crowds of pedestrians in a busy north Toronto neighborhood. Eight women and two men ranging in age from 22 to 94 died.
The attack drew attention to an online world of sexual loneliness, rage and misogyny. Minassian, 28, told police he belonged to an online community of sexually frustrated men, some of whom have plotted attacks on people who have sex.
Minassian has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, leaving his state of mind at the time the only issue at trial.
Callaghan said Friday that Minassian’s autism spectrum disorder — or ASD — didn’t push the man to act.
“This is about a person who committed mass murder who happened to have ASD, not that the ASD made him commit murders,″ Callaghan told the judge-alone trial, which is being conducted via video conference due to the pandemic.
Since Minassian has raised a not criminally responsible defense, his lawyers must prove it’s more likely than not he had a mental disorder that impacted his actions to the extent that he didn’t understand what he was doing was wrong.
Callaghan argued Minassian’s lawyers have not done that.
Boris Bytensky, Minassian’s lawyer, said in his closing arguments Thursday that his client’s autism spectrum disorder left him incapable of making a rational choice when he chose to commit the attack.
Bytensky said the disorder left Minassian without the ability to develop empathy and, ultimately, he was unable to know what he did was morally wrong.
Callaghan pointed to numerous comments Minassian made to various mental health assessors that he knew what he was doing was morally wrong.
“There’s no evidence he ever lost the fact of the wrongness of his actions. He always had an understanding, an awareness — more than awareness — that from society’s perspective, his choice to kill was wrong,” Callaghan said.
Minassian, who said he has never had a girlfriend and was a virgin, admitted to police he used the van as a weapon and said he wanted to inspire more attacks.
Minassian called himself an “incel,” short for “involuntary celibate,” an online subculture that has been linked to other attacks and that often promotes the idea men are entitled to have sex with women.