Man who stabbed boy found not criminally responsible

Published on January 20, 2016
Defence lawyer Mark Gruchy speaks to Nicholas Layman in provincial court. — Photo by Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram

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.

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.

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