Accused killer Colin John found unfit for trial

The man accused of killing a Chemainus man more than three years ago has been declared unfit to stand trial.

Colin John suffers from paranoid psychotic disorder which makes it impossible for him to communicate effectively with his defense lawyer, Justice Lisa Warren determined after a hearing into John’s mental state that lasted for several days.

The hearing, initiated by John’s lawyer, Scott Sheets, lasted more than a week and delayed the trial that began in November 2018.

John is charged with second-degree murder into the death of 20-year-old Derek Descoteau who died of stab wounds at a residence on Caswell Street in Chemainus in May of 2016. He is also charged with the attempted murder of then-16-year-old Janelle Guyant, Descoteau’s girlfriend. Guyant suffered series knife wounds but survived the attack.

Justice Warren took almost two hours to read her decision, a verdict that upset members of the Descoteau family and friends of the victim who have been attending court daily since the legal process began in 2016. Several spectators left the gallery in tears as Warren was reading the final paragraphs of her decision.

Warren said she relied heavily on the testimony of expert witness Dr. Stanley Semrau in making her ruling.

Semrau and other psychiatrists described how John was reasonably communicative when engaging in small talk but would shut down when the subject came to the alleged offence.

“His inability to recount the facts … not communicating the facts required to seek and receive effective legal representation, caused by paranoid psychotic disorder” means he is unable to conduct a proper defence, Warren said.

“This is very important, if not crucial to the outcome of this trial.”

John is expected to be transferred from the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre to the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Port Coquitlam until a the court determines what steps are necessary.

The Forensic Psychiatric Hospital is a secure facility that treats people who have been deemed unfit to stand trial or not criminally responsible due to mental illness.

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