Closing arguments were presented to a Canadian jury in the trial of an individual accused of using his vehicle to murder four members of a Muslim family.
Nathaniel Veltman, age 22, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Additionally, Mr. Veltman is charged with terrorism, as prosecutors contend that his motive for targeting the Afzaal family was their religious affiliation.
However, Mr. Veltman has entered a not-guilty plea, contending that he was in a "dreamlike state" on June 6, 2021, the alleged date he ploughed over three generations of the Afzaal family while they were out for an evening stroll in London, Ontario.
The attack claimed the lives of Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal, and Talat Afzaal, 74, the mother of Mr. Afzaal.
Although severely injured, the couple's nine-year-old son managed to survive.
This is the first Canadian jury to hear white nationalist terrorism cases. In addition to murder, the jury must decide if Mr. Veltman committed terrorism.
As a defence witness, Mr. Veltman claimed that he ate a lot of magic mushrooms 40 hours before the accident.
He admitted to wanting to run over Muslims twice while high, but he restrained. He said he saw his family while eating and felt obligated to comply with the "desire."
The jury heard from forensic psychiatrist Julian Gojer that Mr. Veltman has significant depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and personality disorder. His testimony suggests the magic mushrooms affected his mental health.
Mr Veltman's attorney, Christopher Hicks, compared his client's mental condition at the time to "a runaway goods train on the verge of an explosion" in their closing arguments.
In contrast, the prosecution has contended that Mr. Veltman, who was 20 years old at the moment of his apprehension, was driven by animosity and white nationalist principles. They had presented video of the collision to the jury and summoned a total of nineteen witnesses to testify.
The footage shows Mr. Veltman wearing an army headgear and protective vest. He confessed to attacking the Muslim family in a police interview as a white nationalist.
After the crash, Mr. Veltman called 911 to request an arrest, which prosecutors played. With intent, I did it.
Mr. Hicks has argued that Mr. Veltman made those statements under duress and that his various mental disorders make it difficult to establish that he had the intent to kill on the day of the collision. However, Crown attorney Fraser Ball stated to the jury that Mr. Veltman's confession is "logical and coherent" and that the evidence against him is "abundant."
Legal scholars in Canada have closely monitored the trial to determine whether the nation's terrorism charges, which were implemented in response to the September 11 attacks on the United States, could be extended to an individual who allegedly targeted a Muslim family.
Andrew Botterell, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, stated that he will also be monitoring the outcome of Mr. Veltman's trial, as establishing that an individual is exempt from criminal liability on the basis of a mental disorder is "quite a challenge."
The jury will now deliberate on the fate of Mr. Veltman, who, if proven guilty, faces life in prison.