Alek Minassian pleads not criminally responsible for 2018 van attack

A court sketch of Alec Minassian

The trial for the man accused of carrying out the worst mass killing in Toronto's history is underway.

It took the court registrar over 11 minutes to read all the charges against Alek Minassian - 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. 

"I am pleading not criminally responsible for all counts," Minassian declared in a calm, authoritative voice from a room in the jail where he's being held.

He has admitted to planning and executing the 2018 van attack on Yonge Street in North York; it'll be up to the judge to determine if he was fully able to recognize and appreciate the consequences of his actions or if a so far unspecified mental illness made that impossible.

The trial, which is being held virtually, opened with agonizing details of the pain he inflicted.

Crown prosecutor Joseph Callaghan walked the court through an agreed statement of facts that often included graphic videos and photos from that day on April 23, 2018.

Court heard that at no point did Minassian attempt to stop or slow the van down but instead accelerated. At one point it was travelling 50 km/h down the sidewalk, causing storefront windows to shake. His victims were thrown into the air, dragged along the ground, and wrapped across the hood of the vehicle.

Minassian showed no emotion, not an ounce of remorse, as the images were shown. 

“There was no warning when Minassian mounted the sidewalk because he driving so fast,” Callaghan said. “People were not prepared for such an attack.”

Motorists began honking their horns, trying to warn pedestrians of the danger. Other good samaritans tried reaching through the open windows of the van to try and stop Minassian.

In a videotaped police interview immediately after his arrest Minassian said the only reason he pulled over and ended his attack was because a soft drink splashed onto the windshield of the van and he couldn't see.

That police interview, which is about four hours, began being played for the court in its entirety during the afternoon session.

The trial is expected to take four to six weeks.