A man accused in a shooting at Toronto's Eaton Centre was found guilty Wednesday of second-degree murder in the deaths of two men who were killed at the popular downtown mall two years ago.
Christopher Husbands was also found guilty of five counts of aggravated assault and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The second-degree murder convictions carry a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.
His lawyer Dirk Derstine said his client is disappointed with the verdict but took solace the jury didn't convict him on the original charges of first-degree murder.
"He was sad. He was hoping for better but certainly the jury at least found that he was not guilty of a planned and deliberate murder."
Mr. Derstine said Mr. Husbands will appeal.
Mr. Husbands had admitted to fatally shooting Nixon Nirmalendran and Ahmed Hassan and wounding five others in June, 2012, but had pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
His defence lawyers had argued that the 25-year-old should be found not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder.
They said the post-traumatic stress disorder Mr. Husbands 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 Eaton Centre food court.
Mr. Husbands went into a "robotic" state as he fired off 14 shots, they argued, and saw only dark shadows and heard only "pins dropping" as pandemonium erupted around him.
The Crown, meanwhile, had argued that Mr. Husbands opened fire at the mall because he was determined to get revenge on the men who had attacked him months earlier.
Mr. Husbands's PTSD was "far from disabling," they had countered, and he was in full control of his mental faculties during the shooting, as was demonstrated by video surveillance footage played at the trial.
The judge presiding over the case had instructed jurors to weigh all the evidence before them, including Mr. Husbands's testimony, the opinions of psychiatrists called by the defence and the Crown and the video footage from the mall, which he called "the best witness" in the case.
Mr. Husbands stood in the prisoner's box with his hands clasped and was seen shaking his head after the 12-member jury delivered their unanimous verdict.
A critical issue at the trial was Mr. Husbands's state of mind at the time of the mall shooting, but his defence lawyers' argument that Mr. Husbands was not criminally responsible for the incident was one which caught the Crown off-guard mid-trial.
When it became clear that Mr. Husbands's lawyers were going down that route following a psychiatrist's evaluation of Mr. Husbands, Crown prosecutors had to rush to find their own psychiatrist to assess Mr. Husbands in a very short period of time – a scramble that took place unbeknownst to the jurors.
Mental-health experts on both the defence and Crown sides testified that Mr. Husbands had PTSD, but the extent to which it rendered him incapable of appreciating his actions at the mall was in dispute.
On the day he went to the Eaton Centre, the trial heard that Mr. Husbands was walking around with a fully loaded gun – given to him by a friend a day earlier to look after, he said.
Video footage shows Mr. Husbands opening fire, holding a gun with both hands, and pumping several shots into a man lying on the ground.