Jury deliberations resume this morning in terrorism trial of London man
Nathaniel Veltman, 22, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for a June 2021 attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont.
Thirteen jurors heard all of the evidence over the last 11 weeks, but one was chosen at random to be removed from the deliberations because a verdict can only be decided by 12 jurors, according to the Criminal Code.
The jury began its deliberations on Wednesday at approximately 6:30 p.m. after a three-hour hour instruction from Justice Renee Pomerance.
THE JUDGE’S CHARGE
In her lengthy summary of the case, Pomerance outlined the pivotal portions of evidence the jury should consider.
"Your decision must not be based on emotion. It must reflect a careful, objective, dispassionate approach," Pomerance told the jury. "Mr. Veltman is not on trial for his beliefs. He is on trial for his actions."
In considering a charge of first-degree murder, Pomerance told the jury it must decide if the Crown has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, four points:
- If Veltman committed an unlawful act
- If that unlawful act caused a death
- If Nathaniel Veltman had the intention required for murder
- If Nathaniel Veltman’s actions were planned and deliberate or were they an act of terrorism
- If the jury gets to the fourth consideration, Pomerance said the jurors don’t all have to agree to both; some can agree, according to the judge, it is terrorism, and some can agree it was planned and deliberate.
But they must be unanimous that it’s one or the other if they wish to return with a guilty verdict.
For their consideration about terrorism, the judge said the Crown needed to prove three elements:
- That the act caused the death of a person by the use of violence
- The act was committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, object or cause
- The act was committed in whole or in part with the intention to intimidate a segment of the public with regard to their security
On the attempted murder charge, for the injuries to the Afzaal’s family’s then nine-year-old son, the jury was instructed on how to come to that decision.
Pomerance told the jury if it is satisfied Veltman intended to kill the young child, it’s a conviction of attempted murder. If they are not satisfied he intended to kill the young child, they must return with a conviction of a lesser charge of aggravated assault.
In closing arguments, the defence asked the jury to consider manslaughter or second-degree murder, and argued the Crown had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Veltman planned and deliberated his attack and that he intended to kill.
They also relied heavily on the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist who believed Veltman was in a "depersonalized" state at the time of the attack because of his mental illnesses, was suffering from "adverse effects" of consuming psilocybin and grief over the loss of his great-grandmother.
The prosecution on the other hand asked the jury to dismiss all of the psychiatrist’s evidence, and argued it was based almost entirely on self-reporting of symptoms by Veltman himself and that the “adverse effects” are an “educated guess” and aren’t based on science but supported by one online survey.
The Crown asserted that Veltman planned his attack for months by purchasing a vehicle he couldn’t afford, body armor that was difficult to purchase, researching vehicle speed versus injury equations, and writing a hateful manifesto outlining his "toxic beliefs" about Muslims.