To find a Saskatoon man not criminally responsible for the stabbing death of his spouse, a Queen’s Bench judge must find he was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the offence that rendered him incapable of knowing it was wrong.
Much of that determination will hinge on whether or not Justice Ronald Mills accepts what Blake Jeffrey Schreiner said was going through his mind as he stabbed Tammy Brown 80 times in their River Heights neighbourhood home on Jan. 29, 2019.
Closing arguments at the judge-alone first-degree murder trial took place Wednesday in Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench.
Mills has scheduled his decision for June 7.
Defence lawyer Brad Mitchell argued his client was clearly experiencing extreme delusions and paranoia leading up to, during and after the offence.
The night he killed Brown, Schreiner said he barricaded the doors and searched the house for assassins because he thought people were trying to kill him.
He also testified that voices told him he had to kill Brown before she killed him, and believed Brown asked him to sleep in their daughter’s bed that night so she could accuse him of pedophilia.
Before that, he constantly interpreted mundane messages as having grandiose meaning, connected to a genuine belief that people were either trying to kill him or make him out to be a pedophile, Mitchell argued.
He said journals Schreiner wrote before he killed Brown speak to his deteriorating “state of mind,” chronicling his psilocybin use and the paranoia and delusions he experienced during these trips.
It’s hard to tell which delusions were drug-induced, and which weren’t, Mills observed when noting how Schreiner included both accounts in journals written before and after the killing.
In his post-arrest journals, Schreiner initially described taking psilocybin the night he killed Brown. He later corrected it in a subsequent journal, saying it was a lie connected to the Illuminati.
Mitchell said if Schreiner were making up his delusions, he would have told doctors at the Saskatchewan Hospital — who he knew were assessing him for criminal responsibility — but didn’t because he was still paranoid.
Schreiner demonstrated odd beliefs, magical thinking and unusual perceptions — hallmarks of the schizotypal personality disorder Dr. Mansfield Mela — one of two psychiatrists who assessed Schreiner — diagnosed him as having, Mitchell argued.
Mela said the disorder rendered Schreiner incapable of understanding that killing Brown was wrong — the second branch of the NCR test.
Mitchell concluded that if Mills does not find the defence established NCR on a balance of probabilities, he would have to find him guilty of manslaughter because the intent required for murder was not proven.
First-degree murder argument
Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa said Schreiner does not have schizotypal personality disorder because there were no voices telling him to kill Brown.
“This is simply another tragic domestic homicide in the context of a marital breakdown. That’s all it is, plain and simple.”
Court heard Brown talked about separation the night she was killed.
Schreiner told police he was unemployed, unhappy and self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Kujawa said Schreiner perceived Brown was successful and wanted to leave him and take their two children, telling one psychiatrist that if he couldn’t have them, neither could she.
He gave five different versions of what happened the night he killed Brown. The journals are the only version supporting an NCR finding, Kujawa noted.
Borrowing from his psilocybin experiences, Schreiner wrote the journals he titled “NCR” when he realized NCR was a possibility, she said. When he discovered he wouldn’t have the defence if he were on mushrooms, he rewrote the journals to say he was suffering from sober delusions instead, she argued.
His paranoia is a result of his drug and alcohol use and “simply doesn’t go back far enough” to constitute a diagnoses of schizotypal personality disorder, Kujawa said.
Dr. Olajide Adelugba, the other psychiatrist, diagnosed Schreiner with anxiety and substance abuse disorders, testifying he would have known that killing his spouse was wrong.
Kujawa said Schreiner knew it was “bad” because he told police his mind was “on a bad track” before he killed Brown, and that he believed she was going to use a false pedophilia allegation to take away their kids.
“Clearly he’s preoccupied with the custody of the children,” she said.
She argued Schreiner committed first-degree murder because he testified he thought about killing Brown for at least half an hour before doing it. Planning does not require a lengthy amount of time, she added.
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