Crown questions expert about Kovic’s intentions in snowmobile attack

People with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder ‘react intensely … inappropriately,’ psychologist testifies

The trial of Jordan Kovic, charged with attempted murder, continued Thursday in Iqaluit. (File photo by David Venn)

By David Lochead

An Iqaluit man charged with attempted murder in 2019 may not have intended to kill anyone, an expert on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder testified Thursday.

Edmonton psychologist Monty Nelson, who specializes in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnoses, returned to the stand for a third day as a defence witness in the attempted murder trial of Jordan Kovic.

Kovic was 19 when he was charged with allegedly running over a man with a snowmobile and then repeatedly kicking him on Dec. 27, 2019.

The 28-year-old man was injured and taken to hospital in Ottawa but survived the incident.

Kovic said he did not intend to kill the man and pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder charge. To be found guilty of attempted murder, the Crown needs to prove the person had intent to kill.

Kovic has pleaded guilty to an attack that night involving a second man, 29, who was assaulted but ran to safety at the nearby men’s shelter, police said at the time.

Court heard that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a lifelong disability, affecting the brain and body of people who were exposed to alcohol in the womb.

Kovic was diagnosed with it and a mild intellectual developmental disability by Nelson in January this year. Court heard that Kovic had also previously been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in 2012.

During cross-examination Thursday, Crown lawyer Emma Baasch once again used videos of surveillance footage from the men’s shelter, the beer and wine store and House 1019.

That included video of a snowmobile driver hitting a person, stomping on him, then running him over.

A new set of videos viewed in court showed three people standing outside the beer and wine store.

In it, one person punches another person, who runs away. The person who threw the punch chases after the person who was hit and tries to kick him, but misses.

After that sequence, a video was shown of a person on a snowmobile who stopped before a road to let someone pass by.

Nelson said the initial videos of people standing and then one kicking another corroborated what Kovic had told him, which was that someone had asked for a cigarette and the situation escalated.

Under cross-examination, Baasch asked Nelson to presume for a moment that if the person seen on video chasing someone, and the one seen on the snowmobile, were the same person — Kovic — do the videos indicate planning and decision-making on the part of that person.

Nelson responded, saying it showed someone who was upset. He added that Kovic had told him he wanted to “teach a lesson” to the people he got in an altercation with.

Baasch followed by asking what “teaching a lesson” might mean, and whether it is a euphemism for something else.

Nelson said it was hard to know, but Kovic had also told him the intention was not to kill anyone.

Baasch pressed further, asking if that meant Kovic was capable of thinking. Thought always happens, Nelson said, though the depth of thought can change drastically.

Afterward, the Crown played a video that showed the driver of a snowmobile running over an apparently unconscious person lying on the snow. The driver got off, then continued to kick and stomp the person.

Baasch asked Nelson whether Kovic would be able to understand that stomping on someone and driving over them could lead to their death.

Nelson said Kovic would have been angry and in a blind rage, making it hard to know exactly what Kovic understood.

“In his mind, it was teaching a lesson,” Nelson said.

Nelson noted during the cross-examination, and in previous testimony, that people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder tend to act impulsively and struggle to control their emotions and decision-making.

“He’s in this attack mode,” Nelson said.

Asked by Baasch about the difference between fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and antisocial behaviour, Nelson said people with the fetal alcohol disorder react in the moment.

“They react intensely, they react inappropriately,” Nelson said, adding people with antisocial disorder are more capable of planning.

Baasch also asked whether the manual for diagnosing mental illness could be incorrect and that Kovic actually has antisocial disorder.

Nelson said the manual for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is not rigid but is more of a guideline, and it’s the clinician’s job to diagnose what impairment the person may have.

In defence lawyer Eva Tache-Green’s re-examination of Nelson, they went through the difficult years of Kovic’s childhood, the learning challenges people with FASD have and the impact stress can have on rational thinking.

The trial resumes Dec. 5.


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