Beheading a man is not normal. To commit such a heinous act, one would definitely have to be out of their mind because no sane person could rationalize such violence. This fact could allow Vince Li, the man who brutally decapitated and defiled a sleeping passenger on a Greyhound bus just outside Portage la Prairie in July, to get off scot-free.
Li’s defence team, headed by attorney Alan Libman, is arguing in court on Tuesday that Li is not criminally responsible for his actions as he was suffering from mental illness at the time of the offence. The lawyers are saying Li should be treated in a hospital rather than imprisoned, since they say he did not know his actions were wrong. If this argument is successful, Li will not have a criminal record and will, eventually, be released back into the community if he is deemed healthy by a mental health review board.
The fact Li could get away with murder is insanity. If, at some later point, Li is determined “healthy,” he should then be held responsible for his crime. The taxpayers will foot the bill to make him “well” again, and then the people, on behalf of Tim McLean, should demand he pay them back with life in prison. To let him walk away without even a criminal record provides no justice for McLean and sets a dangerous precedent for the future. How can any of us consider ourselves safe, if someone is free to attack us and then claim they were “out of their right mind”?
There is no way a young man who was heading home after a long season of hard work should have less consideration for his state of being than Li. By committing this crime, Li gave up any benefit of the doubt. He forfeited the right to ask for any sympathy or compassion.
No illness can justify what happened to McLean. No mental defect can give a mother back her young son. There is no question as to whether Li committed this crime, so there should be no question that he has to pay for it. In fact, this is a case where capital punishment makes the most sense. If Li could take a life so brutally, and without provocation, he should not be permitted to have his own.
The fact this trial is taking place before a judge with no jury says a lot. The Canadian people would not permit such a travesty of justice and allow Li to spend his days cozied up in some psych ward.
Justice is blind, or so the saying goes, but one hopes it is not blind to the wool Li and his legal team are trying to pull over its eyes. The Canadian system has to stop pandering to those who commit the crimes and start giving more weight to the victims of those crimes. Instead of worrying about Li and whatever tough road he claims to have travelled that led him to his mental state that night on the highway, the concern should be for McLean and his family. McLean’s mother said, “He was minding his own, sleeping on a bus. It could have been anybody.” And it could’ve been, and it will be if there is nothing standing in the way of someone else committing such an act. Crime deserves punishment, not coddling.
For once, let the justice system reflect on the entirety of the crime, not technicalities or pleas for understanding. A life was horrifically taken that July night, and Li is the man responsible. Those are the facts. Now let him answer for his actions.
Tara Seel is the city editor of The Daily Graphic.