A jury deliberating the fate of a man accused in a deadly shooting at Toronto's Eaton Centre mall asked for clarification Wednesday on aspects of the charge of first-degree murder.
Christopher Husbands has admitted to fatally shooting Nixon Nirmalendran and Ahmed Hassan and wounding five others in June 2012, but has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, which include two counts of first-degree murder.
His defence lawyers have said the post-traumatic stress disorder he developed after a vicious beating and stabbing months before the mall shooting triggered an intense emotional reaction when he saw two of his assailants in the mall's food court.
The Crown, meanwhile, has argued that Husbands opened fire at the mall because he was determined to get revenge on the men who had attacked him months earlier.
Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk had instructed the jury that if they found Husbands was acting in a state of "mentally disordered automatism"at the time of the shooting, its verdict should be not criminally responsible on all counts.
If that defence was rejected, the jury was instructed to consider if Husbands is guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter, or first-degree murder.
The jury – which began deliberations on Tuesday afternoon – asked the judge to review the definition of first-degree murder, elaborate on the specific elements of planning and deliberation and asked the judge to explain if time plays any role in the "planned or deliberate" elements of first-degree murder.
Specifically, they asked if there were any "time requirements" in the formation of the plan to commit murder and also asked how far in advance the deliberation of murder could occur.
Ewaschuk told the jury that "murder is first-degree murder when it is planned and deliberate."
"The elements of planning and deliberation relate to the accused's state of mind," he explained, noting that the plan to murder a person comes first.
"The plan may be formulated in as little as minutes before the murder," he said.
Ewaschuk noted, however, that in this case Husbands would not have had enough time to formulate a plan after he saw his former assailants at the mall on the day of the shooting.
"The plan may have been formulated as early as when the accused, Husbands, acquired the .40-calibre Glock semi-automatic pistol, but certainly must have been formulated at its latest sometimes prior to the accused sighting of the three men at the food court."
Ewaschuk went on to tell the jury that any deliberation of murder must have been done at some point prior to a killing.
"In this case the accused, Husbands, had at most several seconds between sighting the three men and his shooting at them," he said.
"It is a factual determination for you to make whether the accused actually deliberated about the advantages and disadvantages of murdering the victims in the few seconds available to him … prior to the start of the shooting."