manslaughter

Sentencing Hearing Delayed for Man Who Killed His Mother While in ‘Cannabis-Induced Psychosis’

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Jason Dickout pleaded guilty to manslaughter last November.  His sentencing hearing was to begin in early September, but has been postponed to early next year pending the completion of a forensic assessment.  Dickout has remained in custody for almost a year since entering his guilty plea.

According to Dickout’s defence lawyer, psychological assessments completed shortly after his client’s arrest indicated underlying mental health issues and therefore the defence was willing to wait for a complete forensic assessment.  Due to a clerical error, the assessment will not be completed until the end of the year. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

In April 2017, Dickout spent the Easter weekend with his parents in northeast Edmonton.  After his father left for work and his mother went grocery shopping on Monday evening, Dickout “smoked two inhalations of dried marijuana” with his sister, Ashley.

Dickout began almost immediately “exhibiting signs of erratic and anxious behaviour, making other animalistic noises and talking nonsensically”.  Hoping to calm her brother down, Ashley gave him some prescribed cannabis oil, which he had never consumed in the past. 

Two hours later, Ashely called 911 to report that her brother was screaming and repeatedly stabbing their mother in the neck with a six-inch knife.

Police arrived to find Dickout naked from the waist down with blood on his face, t-shirt and his bare feet.  A knife covered in blood and a pair of men’s pyjama bottoms lay on the floor beside Dickout’s mother, Kathy Dickout.  Dickout was found behaving erratically and alternating between screams and hysterical laughing.  He said, “this was all for a laugh”.

Kathy Dickout died as a result of knife wounds, which had severed her jugular vein and carotid artery.

EMTs had to sedate Dickout and he was taken to hospital before he was taken into police custody and arrested.  He told officers, “I killed my mom.  She was so beautiful.  She was always thinking of me.  My mom deserves to live.”

Two doctors examined Dickout at Alberta Hospital and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with the symptoms, with the symptoms abating within  a couple of days”. 

Two doctors examined Dickout and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with other symptoms, with the symptoms abating within a couple of days”.

WHAT IS CANNABIS-INDUCED PSYCHOSIS?

Cannabis-induced psychosis is a possible side effect of cannabis consumption after recreational or chronic use of the drug.  Symptoms can include anxiety, illusions, visual and auditory hallucinations, impaired thinking, paranoia, an inability to focus, loss of touch with reality, disassociation, loss of motivation, disorganized thoughts, suspiciousness, grandiosity, catatonia, agitation and delusions.

Psychosis triggered by the use of cannabis typically begins suddenly and ceases soon after the psychoactive substances in the drug have left the body.  In some cases, there may be an underlying mental illness present that makes it more likely for the drug to cause psychotic symptoms. 

Research has proven that cannabis may cause a psychosis-like state in those that were already at high risk for psychotic disorders.  There may also be a genetic predisposition to cannabis-induced psychosis.  Researchers have found a gene called catechol-O-methyltransferase, which could make individuals more vulnerable to negative side effects of cannabis consumption.

The use of cannabis may also adversely affect medication compliance in those that are using prescription medication to treat psychotic illnesses. 

Studies have also proven that cannabis use in adolescence can be a factor that worsens the symptoms of serious psychotic mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

Most individuals who experience cannabis-induced psychosis are not dangerous.  However, there is a possibility that an individual who has lost touch with reality will engage in risky or paranoid behaviours.  They may also suffer from delusions of grandiosity which can lead to dangerous behaviours, such as reckless driving or jumping from a hazardous height. 

STUDY LINKS VAPED THC TO “DAMPENED” BRAIN ACTIVITY

New research from the University of Guelph found that rats exposed to a single dose of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC (the vapourized psychoactive component of marijuana), experienced dampened brain activity lasting one week, similar to those suffering from schizophrenia and cannabis-induced psychosis.

The research team surgically implanted electrodes into the brains of eight healthy rats that had never been exposed to THC.  In a sealed rat chamber, the rats became exposed to pure vapourized THC or a saline solution.  The rats’ brain activity was then monitored. 

Lead author and assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Guelph, Jibran Khokhar stated:

We found across all the regions [of the brain] the single exposure of THC changed the individual activities of these brain regions, but also altered how these regions communicate, or jive, with one another. 

Vaporized cannabis is gaining popularity and as more concentrates come on the market, we see an increase in wax and shatter – high concentrate forms of THC – and will probably be vapourized with these vape pens.

We will continue to follow Jason Dickout’s case and will provide updates in this blog when more information becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Eaton Centre Shooter Found Guilty of 2 Counts of Manslaughter

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

After six days of deliberations, a jury found Christopher Husbands (“Husbands”) guilty of two counts of manslaughter for killing Nixon Nirmalendran (“Nirmalendran”) and Ahmed Hassan (“Hassan”) during a shooting spree at the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto on June 2, 2012.

Husbands was also convicted of five counts of aggravated assault, one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and one count of reckless discharge of a firearm for injuring bystanders in the crowded food court.

In April 2015, Husbands was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 30 years when he was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder. He launched an appeal and was granted a second trial after the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the trial judge had erred during jury selection.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On June 2, 2012, Husbands was shopping at the Eaton Centre with his girlfriend. They proceeded to the food court after purchasing inline skates and a jacket from Sport Chek.

Husbands began shooting in the food court of the Eaton Centre in the direction of a group of five men, which included the deceased Nirmalendran and his brother Nisan Nirmalendran. Husbands testified at trial that these brothers were part of a group of men that beat and stabbed him more than 20 times three months prior to this incident.

Husbands fired 14 shots during his rampage as seen on surveillance video from the food court. Bullets from Husbands’ gun killed Nirmalendran and Hassan. He also shot, but did not kill, 13-year-old, Connor Stevenson, in the head. Two additional shoppers were shot in the leg and two were grazed by bullets. Husbands actions also caused a stampede of panicked shoppers who trampled a pregnant woman.

WHAT WAS HUSBANDS’ DEFENCE ARGUMENT?

Husbands’ defence team argued that at the time of the shooting their client was in a dissociative state as a result of suffering from PTSD and did not have control over his actions. It was argued that Husbands had been triggered after seeing the Nirmalendran brothers at the Eaton Centre.

Husbands’ defence lawyers infer that the jury either believed that Husbands was provoked into shooting at men who had previously attacked him, or that his PTSD “caused him to react instinctively without forming the intent to kill”.

Stephanie DiGiuseppe, one of Husbands’ lawyers, stated:

It would have been easy for the jury to look at the video and think this was all about revenge, but to look at it through the lens of trauma was something significant, I think, for our community.

WHAT WAS THE CROWN’S ARGUMENT?

Crown prosecutors argued that Husbands was out for revenge and went on a shooting rampage as a form of “street justice”.

Although the Crown accepted that Husbands had PTSD, it was argued that Husbands was in control of his actions throughout the confrontation.

The psychiatric experts who assessed Husbands all agreed that he had PTSD, but were split on whether he was in a dissociative state at the time of his shooting rampage.

At the time of the shooting rampage, Husbands was out on bail for a sexual assault conviction. He was supposed to be living under house arrest and he was under a weapons ban as well by court order. The jury was not privy to this information.

WHAT IS MANSLAUGHTER?

Manslaughter is defined as a homicide which is committed without the intention to cause death, although there may have been an intention to cause harm.

Manslaughter is found at section 234 of the Criminal Code and the punishment for manslaughter is set out in section 236 of the Criminal Code.

Manslaughter does not carry a minimum sentence, except when it is committed with a firearm. In the case of a conviction of manslaughter committed with a firearm, there is a minimum sentence of four years in prison.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT FOR HUSBANDS?

Husbands is facing a life sentence in prison with no chance of parole for seven years.

Parole refers to the temporary release of a prisoner who agrees to abide by the conditions set by the court before the completion of the maximum sentence.  However, the ability to apply for parole does not necessarily mean that parole will be granted.

Husbands’ sentencing hearing will begin on April 29, 2019.  He has already been behind bars for seven years.

We will continue to follow this case and will report on any developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights. For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.