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(WinnipegFreePress) Judge must decide if man that killed wife was criminally responsible

Posted by: Biniam Tekle

Date: Thursday, 07 September 2017

Judge must decide if man that killed wife was criminally responsible

t's been more than five years since Teklu Mebrahtu stabbed his wife 12 times, left her in the bathtub of their downtown Winnipeg apartment suite, and phoned 911 to report he'd killed her.

Alche Kidane, 34, was killed in January 2012, only five months after she and her husband settled in Winnipeg from Eritrea.

Now, as Mebrahtu's second-degree murder trial ends, Crown prosecutors concede he was suffering psychosis and paranoid delusions at the time. But Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shawn Greenberg still has to decide if Mebrahtu was not criminally responsible for the killing. The main question before the court is whether the accused knew what he was doing was wrong, despite his mental disorder.

Murder victim Alche Fsehaye Kidane, 34 years of Winnipeg </p>

Murder victim Alche Fsehaye Kidane, 34 years of Winnipeg

Forensic psychologists called to testify for the Crown and the defence disagreed on that point and offered opposing opinions on Mebrahtu's potential NCR status during his trial earlier this year. But in an unusual step Wednesday, prosecutors asked the judge not to give any weight to the testimony of an expert Crown witness who said he believed Mebrahtu may have been faking his symptoms.

Crown prosecutors Daniel Chaput and Kyle Parker called Dr. Jeffrey Waldman to the stand in May to rebut the defence's evidence from Dr. Giovana Levin, who said she believed Mebrahtu was not criminally responsible.

Waldman testified he believed the accused was "malingering" and his symptoms were inconsistent. He said Mebrahtu should be found criminally responsible. However, problems with Waldman's testimony resulted in the Crown prosecutors backing away from it, and Greenberg said they made the right call.

She has reserved her decision in the case. In April, she dismissed a defence request to have the case thrown out because of unreasonable delay.

Defence lawyer Wendy Martin White argued Mebrahtu's delusions -- particularly his belief his wife was trying to poison him -- led him to kill her.

"He felt he was morally justified in doing what he had done," she said, pointing to translations of what Mebrahtu said during a police interview after his arrest in January 2012 in the immediate aftermath of his 911 confession.

"What they thought for me happened to her," he kept repeating.

Martin White argued the evidence shows Mebrahtu couldn't explain his actions. He said in his police statement "she was trying to kill me, but I don't know what happened after I lost my patience."

"He could not say what he did, why he did what he did," Martin White said.

Chaput argued even though Mebrahtu was having delusions, he still knew killing his wife was wrong. He believed she was poisoning him and had previously refused to eat.

"This was not an unprepared mind," Chaput said, adding when Mebrahtu stabbed his wife eight times in her chest, three times in her abdomen and once in her upper back, "He understood that he would kill her.

"He knew his act was wrong from society's perspective."

Martin White argued just because her client later expressed regret and horror over what he had done when he was talking to police doesn't mean he understood what he was doing during what she described as a "frenzied" attack.

Mebrahtu remains in custody and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He spent four months in the psychiatric ward at Health Sciences Centre while in custody and received electric-shock treatment to bring him out of a reported catatonic state.

While Manitoba Justice doesn't track how many not-criminally responsible assessments are ordered in Manitoba courts, there were 11 not-criminally-responsible findings made in the province within the past year.

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

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