Vernon and North Okanagan
Senior faces psych assessment
Aug 21, 2013 / 11:57 am
Court officials convened in Vernon on Wednesday morning to discuss the fate of John Furman, a 95-year-old man accused of murdering his 85-year-old roommate at the Polson residential care facility.
Crown counsel Howard Pontious says Furman has been moved to a secure psychiatric facility in Kamloops where he will undergo a mental health assessment.
Justice J. Threlfall says he is familiar with these types of cases and was amenable to an adjournment while Furman is examined by health care professionals.
"Step one is to ensure and assessment is done in Kamloops so we know his current condition," Threlfall said.
Furman reportedly suffers from Alzheimer's and dementia.
"Mr. Furman has been certified under the Mental Health Act. That means he is incapable of looking after himself because of his mental dysfunction, and he needs full time care," said Pontious.
Pontious says his understanding from the medical professionals is that the nature of dementia is such that it can't be cured or treated. The disease is progressive and gets worse as a person ages.
The main concern now, Pontious says, is Furman's potential risk to others and how best to address those risks.
"We had little choice but to charge the fellow even though we are aware of his medical condition," he said. "But we are certainly not interested in prosecuting this person."
The future of the case against Furman will be guided by the results of the psychiatric assessment in Kamloops.
"I need to know the risk he poses to others. From there the decision is made whether to send the case to the Review Board," said Pontious.
Pontious says the goal would be to find a facility that can look after Furman while at the same time prevent this tragedy from happening again.
He admits he's never before in 36 years of practice been in the complicated position of prosecuting a case against a 95-year-old dementia patient.
"There's usually a level of culpability obvious. In this case, it's pretty obvious that there's virtually no culpability because there's no capability of forming a malicious intent," he said, adding that it's not his place to make that judgement and it will be up to the mental health professionals to come to that conclusion.
Depending on the assessment, and if Furman's doctors can present an appropriate care plan for him, Furman's lawyers would likely argue an NCRMD defense (Not Criminally Responsible Due to a Mental Disorder).
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