Crown seeks new psychiatric assessment for Nehass

A Crown prosecutor is concerned an application that could see a Yukon man locked up indefinitely could lead to an injustice because of the man’s mental health disorders.

A Crown prosecutor is concerned an application that could see a Yukon man locked up indefinitely could lead to an injustice because of the man’s mental health disorders.

On Tuesday prosecutor Eric Marcoux asked the Yukon Supreme Court to order Michael Nehass to be assessed by a psychiatrist to determine whether he was mentally fit to stand trial.

Nehass has spent the last five years at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.

In May 2015 he was convicted of assaulting a woman in Watson Lake in 2011.

Instead of proceeding with sentencing, the prosecutor was seeking to have him declared a dangerous offender which could mean indefinite detention.

The issue of fitness is usually raised before a case goes to trial when there is reason to believe the accused doesn’t understand the process or can’t communicate with his or her lawyer.

For Marcoux, there is reason to believe Nehass can’t properly instruct his lawyer. Over the past five years, Nehass has fired four lawyers, often claiming they were working against him.

A judge found Nehass unfit in 2014 but the Yukon Review Board, which deals with cases of people unfit to stand trial, overturned that decision.

Now Marcoux wants a new assessment done.

During previous court appearances Nehass has often talked at length about his concerns the government was trying to implant nano chips in his brain, that WCC guards tried to sterilize him, or that there was a large scale conspiracy involving prosecutors, phone companies and judges.

In the past two years Justice Scott Brooker, who is presiding over the case, often had to adjourn court proceedings because of Nehass interrupting him, the Crown or defence.

On Tuesday Marcoux filed transcripts of messages Nehass left on the Yukon chief federal prosecutor’s voicemail, and the content of a 57-page constitutional challenge Nehass filed.

Marcoux argued Nehass was still suffering from paranoia and delusions.

“It confirms that as of last week delusions are still playing a big role in his mind,” Marcoux said.

Going ahead with the dangerous offender application could lead to an injustice, he said.

There aren’t any specific provisions in the criminal code for mental fitness assessments at the sentencing stage, but Marcoux argued that there were no specific provisions against it either.

Nehass’ new lawyer, Anik Morrow, summarized the five years her client has spent at WCC. She said virtually everybody involved in the case, from WCC staff to psychiatrists, has raised concerns over Nehass’ mental health.

As early as December 2013, WCC knew that a staff physician expressed concerns Nehass was deteriorating while in segregation.

His lengthy stays in segregation are the subject of a constitutional challenge that has yet to be heard.

In January 2014, after a territorial court judge ordered the first fitness assessment, Shabehram Lohrasbe came to the same conclusion that another psychiatrist came to: Nehass’ stay in segregation contributed to his deterioration, Morrow said.

In April that year WCC’s lawyer urged the court to speed things up, Morrow added. The jail clearly stated there wasn’t much they could do for Nehass.

In his decision, Judge Michael Cozens found Nehass unfit, noting that his disability was not self-healing but could be reversed.

Nehass himself raised concerns about his mental health before the court, Morrow said.

She wants Nehass to be assessed at an Ontario facility.

Phillip Klassen, the head of Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health, is expected to testify today.

Were Nehass to be found unfit, the case would be paused until he becomes fit again.

At that point the dangerous offender application could resume, Marcoux confirmed to the News.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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