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Judge tells Kachkar jury to only return verdict on murder charge

Steve Brown, left, testified Tuesday at the trial of his friend, Richard Kachkar, who accused of killing Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell. CITYNEWS/Marianne Boucher

The lawyer for the man accused of killing a Toronto police officer with a stolen snowplow argued his client is not criminally responsible for Sgt. Ryan Russell’s death.

Richard Kachkar, 46, was mentally ill when he struck down Russell, 35, on Jan. 12, 2011, and was “incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act,” defence lawyer Bob Richardson told the court on Tuesday.

Kachkar was also incapable of knowing that hitting Russell with a snowplow “was morally wrong. Therefore, he is not criminally responsible,” he said.

Justice Ian MacDonnell told jury members Tuesday that they are only responsible for a verdict on the first-degree murder charge.

Kachkar is accused of first-degree murder and dangerous driving in Russell’s death and has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

“The evidence you have heard so far is still relevant for shedding light on Kachkar’s state of mind,” MacDonnell said, stressing that the jury is not responsible for a verdict on the dangerous driving charge.

At the start of the trial, MacDonnell said there is no question that Kachkar was operating the snowplow that killed Russell, but told the jury it must determine his state of mind.

Richardson said he intends to prove that Kachkar is not criminally responsible for Russell’s death. However, even if the jury finds him not criminally responsible, that does not mean Kachkar walks free, he added.

The defence then said that if the jury finds Kachkar responsible for his actions, it must then decide if the Crown has proven that Kachkar intended to cause Russell’s death.

The jury can find Kachkar guilty, guilty but not criminally responsible, or guilty of manslaughter.

A friend of Kachkar’s said Tuesday he was acting strangely the summer before Russell’s death.

Steve Brown, a friend of Kachkar’s for 10 years, said he saw Kachkar in January 2011 and before that, the last time he saw him was in August 2010.

“He was talking about his wife and kids, his business and building…so much that you would get tired of hearing it,” Brown said. But then, “he just took off.”

Under cross examination, Brown said that Kachkar told him his marriage was in trouble during the August visit.

“I told him it was OK to get a divorce.”

Brown told the court Kachkar believed his wife had a new man in her life and that he had failed his truck driving test.

Brown saw Kachkar again in January, five months later, he told the defence.

“I asked him what was going on. He wasn’t shaved…he looked rough.”

Brown said he left Kachkar alone at his apartment, but Kachkar took off.

“I was locked out for two hours,” Brown said.

When Kachkar returned, “he didn’t look good. He was giving me hugs and saying, ‘I love you. I love you,’ and talking about Jesus.

“He was saying this to my friends, too. I said ‘Richard, you can’t talk like that.’ He was saying, ‘Thank you, thank you very much.’”

Under cross examination by the Crown, Brown said that he sometimes called Kachkar “Richie Rich” because he inherited some money from his father.

Brown also said Kachkar had never acted strangely before that August and was a cautious driver.

“I never saw him with any mental health problems in 10 years,” Brown said.

“We rented cars together…he was a slow driver.”

Other witnesses

A shelter worker testified Tuesday that Kachkar was calm the night before Russell’s death, but complained of being cold and asked to see a doctor.

“He said he was scared. I said, ‘of what?’ And he said he didn’t know,” Rafia Kamwal testified.

Dr. Raphael Odhiambo told the court that Kachkar saw him at a Toronto walk-in clinic in January 2011 and said he was scared and had not slept for several days but didn’t have hallucinations.

Kachkar believed he had a mental illness, he said.

“I thought his complaints were genuine,” Dr. Odhiambo said, adding that he told Kachkar to seek help at an emergency room or at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The trial continues Wednesday, and three psychiatrists, one of whom was selected by the Crown, are expected to testify that Kachkar was in a psychotic state when he killed Russell, Richardson said.

With files from Marianne Boucher