Letisha Reimer, 13, was killed Nov. 1, 2016 in a stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.

No defence witnesses in trial of man charged in killing of Abbotsford student

‘Change of instructions’ results in defence closing case without calling evidence

The lawyer for the man charged in the fatal 2016 stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary surprised the courtroom Monday by announcing he wouldn’t be calling any evidence in his client’s defence.

Gabriel Klein, 24, is charged with the second-degree murder of 13-year-old Letisha Reimer on Nov. 1, 2016, and the aggravated assault of a 14-year-old girl (whose name is protected by a publication ban).

Klein’s trial began in B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 1, but was paused throughout November and the start of December to allow another psychiatric assessment to be conducted.

The trial – which is being heard only by a justice, with no jury present – was expected to focus on Klein’s mindset on the day of the killings. His lawyer, Martin Peters, had suggested that he would argue Klein was “not criminally responsible” (NCR) for his actions due to mental illness.

Klein, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was previously found unfit to stand trial on three separate occasions. The BC Review Board ruled in January of this year that he was then fit and could stand trial.

The defence was expected to begin its case Monday, including evidence from the psych assessment. Klein was also expected to take the stand.

But Peters said in court that he had received a “change of instructions” from his client, and the defence would not be presenting any evidence.

“The defence case is now closed,” Peters said.

Crown lawyer Rob Macgowan said the announcement came as a surprise.

Speaking outside of the courtroom, Peters said he could not discuss why there had been a change in direction and why other witnesses – such as psychiatrists – were not called to testify for the defence. He said those reasons are protected by lawyer-client privilege under the law.

Both sides now come back to the New Westminster courthouse next Monday to begin their closing submissions, which are expected to take two or three days. Peters is expected to use the NCR defence in his closing arguments.

Macgowan, who concluded the Crown’s case on Nov. 1, said in his opening submissions on the first day of the trial that neither side is disputing that Klein stabbed the two girls.

The issue to be determined is whether Klein had the capacity to appreciate his actions and know right from wrong at the time of the offence.

RELATED: Man charged in fatal Abbotsford school stabbing to use ‘not criminally responsible’ defence, trial hears

RELATED: Accused Abbotsford school killer found fit to stand trial

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