Crown will seek life sentence for Eaton Centre shooter

Prosecutors say they will seek a life sentence for a man convicted of manslaughter in a shooting at Toronto’s Eaton Centre that claimed the lives of two people seven years ago.

Crown attorneys say while Christopher Husbands was acquitted of second-degree murder and found guilty on lesser charges in the mall shooting, the killings should be considered “near murder” and sentenced as such.

Defence lawyers say they will seek a fixed sentence but note they are waiting for pre-sentencing risk assessments to inform their submissions.

Both sides are expected to make submissions on a sentence next month.

Manslaughter carries no minimum sentence, except in cases involving a firearm, where the minimum is four years behind bars. The maximum sentence is life in prison.

Also guilty of aggravated assaulted

Husbands was also found guilty of five counts of aggravated assault and one count each of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and reckless discharge of a firearm in the June 2, 2012 mall shooting.

He admitted at trial that he was the shooter but his lawyers argued he should be found not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

The defence team argued Husbands was in a dissociative state due to post-traumatic stress disorder and, as a result, did not have control over his actions. They told the court his PTSD was triggered when he unexpectedly crossed paths with some of the men who had brutally attacked him and left him for dead months earlier.

The Crown acknowledged Husbands suffered from PTSD but said he knew what he was doing at the time — exacting revenge on his attackers.

Ahmed Hassan, 24, died on the floor of the mall’s food court and Nixon Nirmalendran, 22, died in hospital nine days later, court heard.

Six others were hurt, including a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head and survived, and a pregnant woman who was trampled by fleeing shoppers.

It was Husbands’s second trial in connection with the shooting. In the first trial, he was convicted of second-degree murder after being charged with first-degree.

Ontario’s highest court then overturned the ruling and ordered a new trial, finding the judge had made an error in law regarding jury selection.

Prosecutors are now appealing the latest outcome and seeking a third trial, alleging the judge in the second trial made several mistakes related to evidence.

They allege Ontario Superior Court Justice Brian O’Mara erred in requiring them to introduce the evidence of three Crown witnesses through an agreed statement of fact.

They say O’Mara also erred in excluding evidence related to Husbands’s criminal record and his being on bail at the time of the shooting, as well as evidence from eyewitnesses “that the accused was engaged in a targeted shooting.”

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