B.C. terror suspect could plead not criminally responsible: lawyer
John Nuttall, left, holding a Qur'an, and Amanda Korody, shown in this courtroom sketch, appear in provincial court in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Felicity Don)
Published Wednesday, August 7, 2013 5:37PM EDT
VANCOUVER -- One of the suspects in an alleged terrorism plot to bomb the British Columbia legislature on Canada Day has been "certified" under mental-health laws and transferred to a forensic hospital, raising the possibility he could argue he is not criminally responsible, his lawyer said Wednesday.
John Nuttall was charged last month along with his girlfriend, Amanda Korody, in what the RCMP described as an al Qaeda-inspired plan to use pressure cooker bombs to target holiday festivities in Victoria.
The couple made a brief appearance Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court, where Korody blew a kiss toward Nuttall as a judge adjourned the case until late September.
Korody, whose hair was tied back in a ponytail with a pink band, was otherwise expressionless during the brief appearance, though as it finished, she turned to Nuttall and appeared to ask, "Does that mean we can go home?"
Nuttall, a tall slender man with shaggy hair and an unkempt beard, alternated his gaze between Korody and the public gallery, which was full of journalists and two courtroom sketch artists.
Nuttall's lawyer, Tom Morino, said a psychiatrist determined Nuttall should be moved from a provincial jail to a forensic hospital in Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, though Morino said he hadn't yet learned what precisely prompted the transfer.
He declined to say whether Nuttall has a history of mental illness, though he suggested the jailhouse psychiatric assessment could be significant at trial.
"In my opinion, there's a sufficient nexus in time between this certification and the alleged incidents that it certainly raises the spectre of NCRMD (not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder) -- or as we used to call it, 'insanity,"' Morino said outside court.
Morino declined to say whether he intended to use such an argument, adding, "It is absolutely impossible to tell at this early stage."
Korody is being represented by a separate lawyer, Mark Jette, though he wasn't in court on Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.
Morino declined to answer questions about Korody, such as whether she was in jail or, like Nuttall, had been transferred to a mental-health facility.
Nuttall and Korody were arrested on Canada Day and each charged with facilitating terrorist activity and making or possessing explosives.
At the time, the RCMP described the pair as "self-radicalized" and inspired by an "al Qaeda ideology," but also said there was no evidence the pair had any links to outside groups.
The Mounties alleged the plot involved homemade bombs built using pressure cookers, similar to those used during the Boston Marathon bombings in April, though investigators insisted the devices connected to the B.C. plot were inert and could not have exploded.
The RCMP have said little else about the alleged plot or the evidence against Nuttall and Korody. Nuttall's lawyer has suggested they were targeted by an undercover operation similar to so-called "Mr. Big" schemes that invite suspects into fictitious criminal organizations in order to elicit confessions.
In the days following the charges, a picture emerged of a troubled couple who struggled with drug use and, in the case of Korody, mental illness.
Friends and acquaintances recalled both were longtime drug users.
Methadone bottles bearing Korody's name could be seen in their apartment after their landlord allowed journalists inside, and Morino has confirmed that Nuttall was also taking methadone.
Korody's friends said she had been treated for mental illness, and a blog that friends confirmed belonged to Korody included posts about having an anxiety disorder.
Morino said Nuttall and Korody have yet to enter a formal plea, but not guilty pleas have been entered on their behalf.
When asked whether Nuttall denies the allegations against him, Morino responded with a simple "No comment."
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Their next appearance is set for Sept. 20.