Vince Li has been found not criminally responsible for the gruesome murder and beheading of Tim McLean on a Greyhound bus last summer because he is mentally ill.
Both the Crown and the defence agreed that Li is a schizophrenic who was suffering from a psychotic episode when he killed the 22-year-old McLean.
Li, 40, will now be remanded to a secure psychiatric facility where he will receive treatment. A review panel will decide in the next six weeks which facility he will be transferred to.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to begin with a warning. The commentary I am about to offer you has graphic details that you may not want to expose your children to. They concern a hideous event that took place on a bus near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Today, a judge ruled on whether the man with the knife was criminally responsible. The ruling was a foregone conclusion, since this was a trial where the defence and prosecution were on the same page, both telling the judge that the defendant was NOT guilty legally, NOT criminally responsible for his actions. And today Justice John Scurfield, having no legal choice in the matter, acted lawfully when he ruled that Vincent Li was not criminally responsible. Li is being sent to an institution where he will receive treatment and assessed annually and some day a team of psychiatrists may decide that Vincent Li is ready to resume his life as a free man. For many people that is the end of the trail. For the victim’s mother, she wants a law passed, Tim’s law, that says if you are found NOT criminally responsible after having killed somebody, where there is no doubt who did the killing, that if you are committed to a mental facility, that you go there for life. I AGREE with her.
I know that the overwhelming majority of you agree with her. But there are times in this country where we are told by people with far more power than they deserve to have, that the MAJORITY is savagely ignorant, caring only about low rent emotions like revenge, and should be kept as far away as possible from decisions like this.
As a country we are being asked to accept the idea that if a man is suffering from a mental illness when committing the most hideous of crimes, then we must park our desire for punishment, we must avoid our feelings for the family of the victim, we must focus on one thing and one thing only and that is the current mindset and current ideology of Canada’s Psychiatric Community, who individually are for the most part, good and decent people, but collectively on some issues are not necessarily the country’s most reliable friends.
There are also many people in this country suffering from mental illness. Their families and friends are suffering with them. And many of them OVER-IDENTIFY with Vincent Li. Many of them say if the Majority of Canadians have a beef with this decision, they have a beef with all people who are suffering with mental illness, and if they think that someone who is suffering should be sent to an institution with no hope of ever getting out, the slippery slope is being created for all people suffering. This is where Canadians have to put up the stop sign and say, “I am sorry to inform you, that this is not about you or a member of your family. This is about someone who killed a young man and then proceeded to eat his kill.” And while many people are suffering from mental illness and deserve compassion and treatment, they are not all VINCENT LI and we’re not creating a more just and rational Canada by over-identifying with him. We are creating precisely the opposite.
I want to take you to the event in question by reading in a very straight forward way, the story that was filed by the Canadian Press earlier this week and appeared on news sites and newspapers all over the world.
The man who beheaded a passenger on a Greyhound bus was a victim himself, tormented by the voice of God telling him to do it, a forensic psychiatrist told Vince Li’s second-degree murder trial.
The voice told Li to use an assumed name and get on the bus traveling from Edmonton to Thunder Bay last July, Dr. Stanley Yaren said on the first day of Li’s trial.
Li chose to sit next to Tim McLean because McLean made a “friendly gesture’’ to him, Yaren said.
As the bus neared Portage la Prairie, Man., around 8:30 p.m., 40-year-old Li started hearing voices.
“A voice from God told him Mr. McLean was a force of evil and was about to execute him,’’ Yaren told the judge hearing the case.
“He had to act fast to protect himself. In response to that, in a state of panic and fearful for his life, he carried out the acts that he did.’’
Killing McLean wasn’t enough, Yaren said.
Li, whom Yaren diagnosed as schizophrenic, believed 22-year-old McLean was capable of coming back to life, so he continued to mutilate the body and scattered the parts around the bus, the psychiatrist testified.
Although he admitted his guilt to officers that night, Li pleaded not guilty yesterday. His lawyers are arguing he is not criminally responsible because he is mentally ill.
Li is still psychotic and believes it’s just a matter of time before God kills him, Yaren said. He continues to have hallucinations and hear voices, but is on strong anti-psychotic medication.
“Mr. Li did not understand he was killing an innocent bystander. He did not understand his actions were wrong,’’ said Yaren, adding Li is a humble, respectful person.
“It would be in some sense easier if Mr. Li was an anti-social psychopath with a history of malicious behaviour, but he isn’t that. He is, as I’ve come to know him, a decent person. He is as much a victim of this horrendous illness . . . as Mr. McLean was a victim.’’
McLean’s family, many of whom came face-to-face the killer for the first time yesterday, found the suggestion repugnant.
“At some point, my son’s biggest mistake was going, ‘How’s it going?’ And for that his head was cut off and his insides were splayed all over the inside of that bus,’’ said Carol deDelley, McLean’s mother.
“I’m having a very difficult time having any sort of sympathy (with Li) . . . I don’t think Mr. Li is a victim here.’’
An agreed statement of facts read out in a Winnipeg courtroom said Li, blood smeared on his face from the attack, had to be Tasered twice when he first escaped from the bus, which had pulled over by the side of a Manitoba highway.
The statement said Li attacked McLean “for no apparent reason’’ and ignored other horrified passengers as he repeatedly stabbed the young man, who unsuccessfully fought for his life.
When the bus pulled over near Portage la Prairie, Li was engrossed with stabbing and mutilating McLean’s body. Passengers fled the bus and stood outside.
It was then that Li tried numerous times to leave the bus. But he was locked inside and, according to the statement, returned to McLean’s body and methodically carved it up further.
Police said McLean’s body parts were found throughout the bus in plastic bags, although part of his heart and both eyes were never found and were presumed eaten by Li.
Now I just want to take a bit of a break here for a few minutes, to allow you to have some measure of relief from what is being discussed and ask you a few questions. Just Canadian to Canadian.
Why am I supposed to have sympathy for Vincent Li?
Why am I supposed to ignore my feelings of sympathy for Tim McLean?
When did we become a Vincent Li country?
Am I crazy for continuing to see us as a Tim McLean country?
Tim wasn’t looking to hurt anyone that night. His only mistake was sitting too close to Vince and for being nice to Vincent, for showing some concern for Vincent’s humanity. Asked him how he was.
When did we stop owning our own country? Who does this country belong to anyway?
Why don’t we have the right to have a guarantee that Vincent Li will never do it again?
Has Tim McLean not earned that one guarantee for the rest of us? Any one of us could have been on that bus sitting in the same seat. Any one of us could be somewhere, someday in the snare of a psycho and if we are brutally murdered, do we not earn the right to a guarantee that it will not happen to anyone else?
Is that unreasonable? No, that is entirely reasonable. And because we are forced to have lawyers and psychiatrists batter our common sense by telling us what is reasonable, is unreasonable, we begin to lose it. We begin to lose our respect for our own Country. Because a country is more than just beautiful lakes and streams and mountains. There must be a mountain of strong values that we look to for support. But it just seems that this one more story gives us the impression that the Canadian Mountain is volcanic and every now and then the volcano blows thick black ash in our faces.
The mountain is unstable and unpredictable and we end up fearing it, instead of honouring it.
I want the Canadian Mountain to be a Tim McLean mountain, not a Vincent Li mountain.
And now a brief interlude from common sense back into what went on this week in a Canadian courtroom. Mike McIntyre wrote the following in the Winnipeg Free Press.
Vincent Li claims voices in his head from God caused him to single out a perfect stranger, stab him multiple times and then decapitate, defile and cannibalize the body in front of dozens of horrified witnesses.
But despite committing one of the most gruesome crimes in Canadian history, Vincent Li could be rehabilitated enough to return to the streets one day, according to his doctor.
Psychiatrist Stanley Yaren told Li’s second-degree murder trial Tuesday that the admitted killer has a very strong chance to recover from the major mental illness and extreme psychosis that triggered last summer’s slaying of 22-year-old Tim McLean on board a Greyhound bus.
He described Li as an otherwise “decent person” who was suffering from untreated schizophrenia and clearly out of his mind when he believed he was acting on God’s commands to eliminate “the force of evil” by attacking the sleeping McLean.
“He was being tormented by auditory hallucinations,” said Yaren, who has worked closely with Li at the Health Sciences Centre psychiatric ward since he arrived last August. “He believed Mr. McLean was a force of evil and was about to execute him. He had to act fast, urgently, to save himself. This wasn’t an innocent bystander or stranger he chose to kill, but rather an evil force he was commanded to kill.”
Yaren, a witness on behalf of the Crown who is the director of forensic psychiatry for both the province and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, has concluded Li should be found not criminally responsible for his actions based on his mental state at the time.
Such a ruling would send him to a hospital, instead of a prison, for an indefinite period. Li admits he killed McLean, but began his case Tuesday by pleading not guilty by reason of a mental disorder.
“He didn’t understand, in my opinion, that he was just killing an innocent bystander. He understood this was the only action he could take,” Yaren told Queen’s Bench Justice John Scurfield.
Once McLean was obviously dead from dozens of stab wounds to the back and chest, Li continued to hear voices demanding he attack the body, he said.
“He was terrified, frightened, tormented. Mr. Li’s fear, because of what he was being told through these hallucinated voices, is that what he perceived to be the evil being would come back to life, through some supernatural powers and finish him off. He was in a frenzy to prevent this from happening,” Yaren said.
He said Li has been co-operative and made significant strides since being hospitalized and medicated and could function again in the community – something Yaren admits doesn’t sit well with most people, including the victim’s family.
“I completely understand the need for a sense of justice, of retribution,” Yaren said. “It would be in some sense easier if Mr. Li was an anti-social psychopath with a history of malicious behaviour, but he isn’t that. He is, as I’ve come to know him, a decent person.
He is as much a victim of this horrendous illness … as Mr. McLean was a victim. Don’t hate the person. Hate the illness.”
Dr. Yaren, I don’t hate Vincent Li. I just love my country and in my Canada when we know someone has done something wrong, something brutal, something barbaric, we do what we can to make sure it never happens again. And the only way to do that, is to deny him the opportunity. We ought to have the power to do that, Doctor. On the night in question, Vincent Li had the power of life or death over Tim McLean and it doesn’t matter whether he chose from a sane perspective or insane perspective to kill Tim and proceed to eat Tim. What are we being fed as a country? The idea that if someone heard the voice of God and God was telling him to do evil and he then did evil, than we are to forgive him and down the road risk the idea that he will be out and possibly have another rendezvous with the voices and the Tims? And you call my attitude revenge. I am not seeking Revenge, Doctor. Why are you and your colleagues in psychiatry wreaking vengeance on the rest of us? What did we do, besides grieve for Tim?
Back to the story.
The psychiatrist conceded Li’s actions could not have been predicted, given that he had no prior criminal record or history of any violence.
So at this point do we not have to ask the doctor this question:
If his behavior was not predictable a relatively short time before he did what did, what would ever give us comfort that future predictions coming from experts are to be believed.
The Psychiatrist described Li as polite, humble and hard-working and not a “monstrous psychopath.”
“The man I described, without psychosis, would have had no reason to kill Tim McLean.”
Doctor we get that. We get that the guy you met, is not the same guy Tim met.
He got the psychotic Vince.
Now I am asking you to understand something about your own profession. You know that all these medical terms you use, cover a wide range of behaviors and a wide range of human beings, who are unfortunately beset by these illnesses. You know that predictability exists only on a continuum, because human beings exist on a continuum. We are all different. We are all unique. And that is why when we ask that this person be put in a facility for life, we are not stigmatizing everyone with mental illness, we are segregating him from the rest of us, including those of us who are mentally ill.
We think you don’t know enough about the human mind to ever be able to guarantee us that whatever voices he heard, for whatever reasons, aren’t coming back. Doctor, you and the other experts are wonderful at examining the past and the present. But you don’t know how to predict the future. But we can predict that you will denounce those of us who have a different point-of-view as being unfeeling and uncaring, lacking in compassion for the mentally ill. Since we don’t accept your point-of-view, we are not worthy of you. Do you know what you are doing, Doctor? You are stigmatizing us and endangering us and threatening us. You see for most of us, the only voice we hear, is Tim’s voice. His voice is crying out for justice. His voice is hoping that our eyes are not as gouged as his were and that we are able to see clearly what some don’t have the courage to see.
Doctor, I know that it makes some people in the mental health community and those among the chattering classes feel better to see Vincent Li as a victim here. He is less frightening as a victim and less culpable. It feels good for some to make this story go away that way. You know what feeling good is, Doctor. It’s a selfish thing. It is selfish for anybody to take away anything from this which would make them feel good. It’s ironic when you think about it. Tim McLean on that Hot Prairie Night wasn’t selfish at all. He is the one who showed concern for Vincent Li and paid attention to him. Most of the rest of us would have ignored him. Tim didn’t and for that he has paid a huge price and today’s decision makes me feel that Tim’s family will continue to pay a price, a price that is excruciatingly high. They are being told to have sympathy for Tim’s killer and if they don’t, they aren’t fully human by the standards of the psychiatric and mental health community. And that too is as barbarically wicked as what happened on that night, on that bus near Portage La Prairie.
Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know if Vincent Li will ever taste freedom again. Apparently, we don’t have the right to take that away. So some day he may emerge from that hospital and some day, and we hope it never happens, he may hear those voices again. At the moment, the only voice I hear is Tim’s. And he is asking a question:
“What have they done to my country?”
I’m Charles Adler on the Corus Radio Network.