Man who stabbed boy found not criminally responsible

Rosie Mullaley
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The mentally ill young man who ran onto a soccer field and viciously stabbed a boy in 2014 has been found not criminally responsible for his actions.

Defence lawyer Mark Gruchy speaks to Nicholas Layman in provincial court. — Photo by Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram

Judge Colin Flynn rendered his decision today in provincial court in St. John's in the case of Nicholas Robert Layman.

"I've had an opportunity to review all the evidence as well as case law and I've done some research myself ...," the judge said.

The 20-year-old Layman was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon as a result of a stabbing that happened Sept. 25, 2014, at a Conception Bay South soccer field.

Layman ran out onto the field with a knife, stabbed an 11-year-old boy several times in the neck and back and took off. He was found a short time later up the road at his parents’ house and taken into custody.

He's admitted that it happened.

However, the judge agreed that Layman had a "disease of mind" and was incapable of knowing his actions were wrong.

Flynn added, "There's no doubt the psychiatric history of Mr. Layman explains his actions."

Both defence lawyer Mark Gruchy and Crown prosecutor Frances Knickle presented submissions last month supporting a not-criminally-responsible finding for Layman.

Their determinations were based mainly on the testimony of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Jasbir Gill, who has been assessing Layman since last year at the Waterford Hospital.

Gill said Layman had been battling psychosis for years and was hospitalized in the past — his first time, in November 2013. During a hearing a few months ago, Gill said he experienced worsening symptoms of schizophrenia leading up to the stabbing.

She said Layman was hearing voices and experienced paranoid delusions, with thoughts his own family members were going to hurt him and friends’ parents would kill him. He was paranoid and carried a knife for protection.

Gill said on the night of the stabbing, Layman heard voices in the radio and TV and they told him to stab the boy. Gill said they were command hallucinations, and Layman had an irrational need to obey the voices.

She said Layman also had disorganized thoughts — fleeing to his parents’ house, where he acted normally. He also got rid of the knife, but not his bloody clothes.

She determined Layman was “deprived of rational decision-making,” that day.

Gill said Layman has made considerable progress with medication and has insight into what he did.

Both Gruchy and Knickle agreed that what Layman did made no sense — a young man with no criminal history goes to a soccer field, approaches a boy he had no connection with, stabs him in front of 100 people and takes off.

The judge admitted the fact that Layman seemed aware of the situation when we was arrested. However, he said the fact that it happened on an open field and Layman made no attempt to hide is evidence of his mental state.

The not-criminally-responsible finding means Layman will continue detention at the Waterford Hospital. His case will eventually go before a review board, which will assess the case and determine whether he could be released and reintegrated into society with strict regulations.

Gruchy told reporters last month that public safety is the central concern and that it's not a get-out-of-jail free card. He said the focus will be to get Layman mentally healthy again.

He explained that release restrictions would actually be more stringent than if Layman were to be found criminally responsible and go through the regular jail system.

Layman’s father Scott Layman and stepmother Doreen Layman have told reporters said they just want Nicholas to get the help he needs.

Twitter: TelyCourt

Organizations: Waterford Hospital

Geographic location: Conception Bay

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Recent comments

  • A relative with Schizphrenia
    January 20, 2016 - 22:58

    Until you know or are related to someone with this disease then you don't know how a family lives in fear,yes they are great while taking their medication,but when they don't feel they need their medication there is no way in hell they are going to take it,they are very threatening to others.My brother lived with this disease until his death,he put us though hell,the threats the violence,carrying a knife with him at all times,we were afraid to sleep not until we have him arrested,hospitalized,and medicated did we get any peace.He will get to a point that he will repeat this when he decides he feels ok without his meds.He should be locked in a facility and only have supervised passes.Its not their fault but no should live in fear like we did.Even though my brother had passed away from other complications it was a relief for me and my family to be able to go with our lives something we were not able to do in 12 years. It was sad to see him go but it was either him or our family at some point.So to sit back and read all these comments from people who don't understand this desease walk in our shoes first,then say he shouldn't be locked away.

  • some folks & their attitudes
    January 20, 2016 - 16:26

    Some NL'ers really need to put their feet in to the 21st century. Howl all you want but to punish someone for being sick is barbaric. Having something bad happen to you or someone close to you isn't an excuse to barbarize sick people. That's about vengeance/revenge & unhealthy personalities. Being a victim isn't an excuse to cause harm to others or remain a victim your whole life either. ( @ you jack) IMHO the judge made the right call. Over the years there have been citizens here that murdered & were not imprisoned but sent to a hospital & they did so respond well to treatment took their place in society never to harm another soul until the day they died. A criminal knows their actions are wrong a seriously mentally ill person does not.

  • Ross Goodwin
    January 20, 2016 - 12:24

    And of course we can no longer verbalize why exactly someone is "not criminally responsible". However, when assessing whether people so afflicted are a danger to society, the comparison to diabetes is commonly broached... despite the fact that you hardly ever see a diabetic run out on a soccer field and try to stab a child to death... or behead people on a Greyhound bus, for that matter.

    • Donna J.
      January 20, 2016 - 13:39

      And you don't see people with schizophrenia normally get violent either. So what's your point? I'll let you get back to your practice.

  • Terry
    January 20, 2016 - 12:00

    Good call judge. It's about time people with serious mental health problems get the help they need, we as a society should demand sick people get the help they need before they cause harm to others. This attack would have been prevented if adequate services were available to him. persecuting sick people after the fact helps no one in society. @ jack sorry to disappoint you but the young boy made a remarkable recovery. He has more wisdom than you will ever have even at his young age. It isn't hard to tell you lack education & natural insight in to the workings of mental illness & even less about the recovery of victims. There are many that refuse to be a professional victims their whole lives, in fact most recover. What a horrible & ignorant comment you posted.

    • Jack
      January 20, 2016 - 14:28

      Terry, how dare do you say that I'm ignorant about persons with Mental Health related disabilities. As a person dealing with a mental health disability myself, which is Autism, I'm totally aware that disability related disturbances are going to happen. I also worked with persons with mental health disabilities in the past, and they are generally great people and good to get along with. At the same time, after a friend of mine from Nova Scotia, Trevor Brewster, was killed in May 2007 in the hands of Glen Race, and then was found "Not Criminally Responsible" last year, I have no sympathy whatsoever for anyone using a mental illness to kill or harm others as victims of these crimes suffer physical and mental scars that can linger for the rest of your life. At the end of the day, whether you have a mental health related disability or not, I was taught that we have to accept the consequences for our actions whether its jail time or committed to a mental health facility.

    • Brad
      January 21, 2016 - 06:51

      Jack, unless you are a doctor that specializes in mental health...shut up! You have no clue what you are talking about and are an insult to those to have real problems. No wonder we are still having mental health issues in society now, it's because of attitudes like yours.

  • david
    January 20, 2016 - 11:33

    We now have a perfectly circular justice system. "The fact you did the heinous thing you did is its own proof that you cannot be held legally responsible for having done what you did." Salary increases all 'round!

  • Bob
    January 20, 2016 - 11:09

    This was a very sad, traumatic and near tragic event for many people. Nicholas is obviously struggling with his mental health and will for the rest of his life. I believe this was the right outcome of this proceeding. Schizophrenia is a treatable illness and Mr. Layman should be treated and, in time, be given a an opportunity to try to return to a normal life. To condemn his for the rest of his life in an institution for his actions while ill is unfair. If doctors feel he is not a threat then he should be released and followed by psychiatrists. Had he been found guilty he would have been sentenced and been a free man in a couple of years. Mental illness should not automatically come with a life sentence. I am sure my feelings may differ slightly had it been my child that had been stabbed, but they would may if Nicholas was my son.

  • Tom
    January 20, 2016 - 10:21

    He should spend the rest of his life locked up at the Waterford. He has an incurable condition that requires constant supervision since he has already shown he cannot be trusted to take it himself. Leave him locked up.

    • Donna J.
      January 20, 2016 - 10:50

      Incurable? And your knowledge of the treatment of schizophrenia is what...? I think Jack is looking to gather a lynch mob.

    • Tom
      January 20, 2016 - 11:01

      It's called the Internet. Look it up. Incurable, only treatable and even that is not always effective so keeping him locked up is the only sure way to make sure he don't do this again.

    • Jack
      January 20, 2016 - 11:38

      Donna J., after a family friend of mine from Nova Scotia we knew well from Steak and Stein in Halifax, Trevor Brewster, was killed in the hands of Glen Race, and being found "Not Criminally Responsible" as a result of it, I have a right to have a little less sympathy for those whom justify using mental illness as an excuse to severely harm or kill others. I have a mental health disability myself, which is Autism, and if I cause harm to others, guess what, I would suffer the consequences like everybody else, whether its jail time or spend time in a mental health facility.

    • Donna J.
      January 20, 2016 - 13:32

      Jack. No one is justifying anything and no one got away with murder. Throwing people in jail for the sake of satisfying the likes of you 'I know this guy in Halifax,' Tom 'I learneded it on the internets,' and misery guts david, accomplishes nothing. The only danger around here is your appalling ignorance.

    • Brad
      January 21, 2016 - 06:52

      Another person like Tom who has no clue what they are talking about....doctors must love you when you go for care and say "I knows what I has, I looked it up on da net!"

    • ogre
      January 21, 2016 - 07:19

      So Donna people with mental illness who cut childrens throats or behead people on Greyhound Buses will not repeat these crimes with medication? My grandmother was stabbed in the face with sissors by her son who has schizophrenia and he also threw a frying pan of hot oil at her several months later while on his meds and being"supervised by a social worker". Some mentally ill people are dangerous.Thats it so enough with the derogatory comments to those that dare point out the truth.

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    January 20, 2016 - 10:02

    The Original was spot on: Judge Flynn did the responsible thing and got the accused real help. Jack--you had ought to educate yourself on how the justice system works. Locking people up does not bring closure, nor does it help in any way. "Not Criminally Responsible" mean the system can now keep the accused until he is fit to be released...that could be ten years. Think about it.

  • Kev
    January 20, 2016 - 10:00

    No, Jack, it would be a sad day for justice if someone who can't be held responsible because of mental illness were thrust into the criminal courts and criminal jails. How would "justice" be served by imprisoning him? Explain that.

    • Jack
      January 20, 2016 - 11:13

      Very easy Kev, it would have made Mr. Layman accountable and responsible for his actions, including the physical and mental anguish this 11 year old boy suffered in his hands. Keep in mind that this 11 year old boy suffered neck injuries and stab wounds in his hands, and also jeopardized public safety as over 100 people witnessed that act.

  • The Original Valleyer
    January 20, 2016 - 09:53

    Well it's about time the justice system got something right. Instead of sending this troubled young man to "regular" jail where mental heath issues are ignored he will go to a secure facility where he should get the help he clearly needs. All too often now the mentally ill are ignored. Thank you Judge Flynn for doing the right thing.

  • Jack
    January 20, 2016 - 09:52

    Definitely a sad day for justice when a young man like Nicholas Layman nearly killed an 11 year old boy at a Conception Bay South soccer field, and gets away with Attempted Murder due to a "Not Criminally Responsible" verdict. As a result of this ruling, the 11 year old boy whom suffered in the hands on Nicholas Layman will never see true Justice or heal mentally and physically as a result of his careless actions, mental health issues or not. Keep in mind that these mental and physical wounds this young boy suffered in Layman's hands will linger with him for the rest of his life, so shame on the courts for letting Layman get away with Attempted Murder. I know I'm being a blunt and insensitive, but this young boy shouldn't suffer anymore anguish due to our Justice System's flaws.

    • dan
      January 20, 2016 - 09:57

      You aren't being are 100% correct.

    • Wow
      January 20, 2016 - 10:13

      you need to look at if it was your child. on either side. metal health - paranoid schizophrenia. explaining to a child the reason it happened was a disease is far better for humanity than what you're suggesting. he will still be confined - just to a health facility.

    • Donna J.
      January 20, 2016 - 10:46

      "Blunt and insensitive" aren't the words that come to mind... This decision was true justice. One expects that the Laymans are relieved that their child is on the mend and that Mr. Gruchy gets the help he needs and deserves. Sorry if you don't feel vindicated that someone isn't hanging from a tree branch -- but that says more about you than the justice system. 276a

    • southern shore
      January 20, 2016 - 10:47

      What makes you so sure this young victim is not able to understand the older kids illness? Not heal mentally or physically? Where did you get your medical training? Facebook? & most important who are you to stigmatize a victim by saying they will never recover? This poor kid(the victim) will be done more harm by ignorant people like commenter jack than the incident itself. young people are resilient & most certainly do go on to lead healthy productive lives . Layman's hands! like wtf! where do these people come from? Blunt & insensitive? That's the least of your problems you're also an idiot & people like you cause your own anguish to others.

    • The real Calvin
      January 20, 2016 - 10:57

      Nothing to do with our justice system Jack. The man is severely mentally ill. Layman should not be allowed to mingle with the general population unsupervised, but throwing him in jail solves nothing. Attitudes like yours are why people like Layman exist in the first place. Mental illness and mental health issues are just now starting to receive the attention they need. Burying someone like Layman in the criminal system in no way solves the problem. If the victim's parents have a grain of sense, they will explain to their child that the person who did this to him is severely mentally ill and is hopefully receiving the medical attention he requires. Here's to hoping you never have to deal with mental illness in your family, as I feel it would not be met with any form of understanding or care...

    • Jack
      January 20, 2016 - 11:21

      Southern shore, I am not being ignorant and causing anguish to others. The fact is that Mr. Layman caused long term mental and physical harm to this 11 year old boy in front of hundreds of people, which will require a long period of mental and physical rehabilitation plus this young boy will have mental health issues for a long time including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That will cost taxpayers a considerable amount of money in the long run. No, I am not being an idiot as I have a right to go to a public location without fearing for my life.

    • Jack
      January 20, 2016 - 11:31

      Southern shore, I'm not being ignorant as I'm getting frustrated with people causing harm or ending a life of another person and then use the "Not Criminally Responsible" defence to justify it. Let's take for example, Weiguang "Vince" Li, a man whom victimized and beheaded a passenger, Tim McLean, on a Greyhound Bus to Winnipeg in 2008. Li got away with murder after being found "Not Criminally Responsible", and now spending time at Mental Health Facility at Selkirk. Then you have Glen Race, whom killed my family friend from Nova Scotia, Trevor Brewster, in May 2007, and he got away with murder after he too was found "Not Criminally Responsible". I'm not being ignorant towards those with Mental Health Related disabilities, at the same, people have to be safe. As a person with a mental health related disability myself, which is Autism, I understand that disability related disturbances can lead to violent acts, but at the end of the day, we have to take responsibility for our actions; in other words, I have to accept the consequences of my wrongdoings as everybody else.

    • Oh my
      January 20, 2016 - 14:32

      Jack, you are, in fact, very ignorant and don't understand that the act happened BECAUSE of this young man's mental illness.