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Kachkar’s mental health diagnoses questioned at trial

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen testifies at Richard Kachkar's murder trial in Toronto on Feb. 28, 2013. CITYNEWS

Doctors had a hard time trying to pin down a mental health diagnosis for Richard Kachkar after he struck and killed a Toronto cop with a snowplow, the jury at his trial heard on Friday.

Kachkar’s state of mind is the cornerstone of the trial, with the jury having to determine whether he’s criminally responsible for Sgt. Ryan Russell’s death on Jan. 12, 2011, or whether he was suffering from a mental illness and couldn’t fully comprehend the consequences of his actions.

He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Read our full coverage of the trial.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen took the stand again on Friday, and told the court he questioned how often Kachkar was reporting symptoms of sadness and depression.

Another doctor who evaluated Kachkar after Russell’s death believed he was over reporting symptoms. Dr. Klassen said he also questioned if Kachkar was over reporting his symptoms of amnesia in the aftermath.

Dr. Klassen said he read other doctors’ reports on Kachkar that concluded he suffered from a psychotic disorder. Dr. Klassen described the conclusions as a “diagnosis by exclusion.”

“It’s what you say when you think someone is psychotic but don’t have a category to put them in,” he told the court.

Dr. Klassen went on to say that Kachkar possibly has higher functioning schizophrenia, as he was struggling with everyday living. He also told the court that Kachkar was aware he was charged with first-degree murder.

The Crown challenged Dr. Klassen’s assessment even raising the possibility that Kachkar was trying to commit suicide by forcing police to shoot him — death by cop as it’s known.

“All this paranoid delusion. Does it sound like someone who would put together that scheme?” Dr. Klassen mused. “I’d say I was more comfortable with paranoia.”

“But he wanted to commit suicide?” the Crown asked.

“It’s possible. It’s conceivable,” Dr. Klassen said.

The defence has argued Kachkar cannot be held criminally responsible for what happened, while the Crown argued he’s responsible, using the suicide theory and also the fact that he showed remorse.

The remorse came after Kachkar was shot and hospitalized on Jan. 12, 2011. Kachkar wrote down, “I did something very bad.”

The Crown suggested he knew he had done something morally wrong and asked Dr. Klassen if someone with a mental illness can appreciate moral wrongness.

“I would suggest he has greater awareness than sometimes he lets on,” Dr. Klassen said. “He does perceive his actions as bad. He’s not telling us everything he knows….He knows he’s done something wrong.”

But Dr. Klassen stood by his original diagnosis.

The trial continues Monday with testimony from two other forensic psychiatrists.

With files from Marianne Boucher and Roger Petersen