UBCO murder trial delayed, defence may seek not criminally responsible ruling

UBCO murder trial delayed

The murder trial for the man charged in the killing of a UBC Okanagan security guard has been postponed.

During a voir dire hearing (a hearing to determine the admissibility of evidence) at the Kelowna courthouse on Monday, defence lawyer Grant Gray told the judge that he has requested a second psychiatric assessment for his client, Dante Ognibene-Hebbourn, calling the original assessment “ambivalent”.

Gray said it is quite likely that the accused will admit to part of the Crown’s case, but he would be seeking a new trial to argue that his client was not criminally responsible, due to a mental disorder, for his actions in the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 2022.

That’s when Harmandeep Kaur, 24, was attacked while on duty at the Kelowna campus. She later died in hospital. Ognibene-Hebbourn, who also worked at the university as a night janitor, was arrested near the scene and detained under the Mental Health Act. He was charged with second degree murder a little over a month later.

Kaur arrived in Canada as an international student in December 2015, and was granted permanent residency status in January 2022. Her cousin told Castanet that the young woman was planning to become a paramedic, calling her intelligent, funny and willing to help anyone.

Monday’s voir dire began after Ognibene-Hebbourn re-elected to be tried by judge alone, instead of by judge and jury. At issue in the hearing was whether the statements he gave to Kelowna RCMP on April 5 and 6, 2022 were given voluntarily.

A decision on the admissibility of his statements was delayed to deal with the rescheduling of the trial.

Gray said that it could be a couple of months before the new psychiatric assessment comes back. Crown counsel David Grabavac indicated that the Crown would likely have to get its own assessment done after the defence report comes in, and that could further delay the trial until the late summer or even the fall of 2024.

He also said the timing would depend on whether the Crown and defence agree on the not criminally responsible designation.

The case will be back in court March 18 to hopefully fix a date for a new trial.

When the courts find a person not criminally responsible for a crime due to mental disorder, they are referred to the BC Review Board, which provide legal oversight of treatment and supervision for an indefinite amount of time.

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