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Vernon News

95-year-old dementia patient "presumed fit" to stand trial

RCMP continued their investigation at the care facility Tuesday.

VERNON - A 95-year-old Vernon man could spend his remaining days in a psychiatric ward awaiting a murder trial instead of in his room at a dementia care ward at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

John Furman made another appearance in court today and was sent to a psychiatric ward at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre to determine if he is fit to stand trial. He is accused of murdering his 85-year-old roommate while under constant care. Furman allegedly assaulted the man around 11 p.m. Sunday night, causing fatal injuries. Both men were residents of a care ward for people whose dementia is complicated by behavioural or psychiatric issues.

It's a rare case and Furman now enters a system that clearly didn't anticipate his arrival. The criminal justice system is well practiced at determining the effects of mental illness on crime with a series of statutory hearings and assessments. But it doesn't seem prepared for a man currently under treatement for dementia and nearing end of life.

RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says assaults at care wards are rare, though they do happen. But rules are rules, and protocols must be followed—no special treatment.

"We're continuing to investigate this homicide and gather evidence to present to the courts, who will determine the best approach in this case," Molendyk said. "Our job is to gather evidence and be impartial."

Neil MacKenzie, spokesperson for the Crown wouldn't speak about this case specifically, but said any accused person is, by law, presumed fit for trial until the process determines otherwise. Mental fitness is not a prerequisite to be charge, he said.

The accused must understand the nature of the proceedings and their consequences to be considered fit for trial, MacKenzie said.

"If there's a concern about fitness, the court will have to look at that and resolve it in the initial proceedings," MacKenzie said. 

That's if the accused is found not mentally fit at the time of the court proceedings. He could still stand trial and be found not criminally responsible due to his condition at the time of the alleged incident.

RCMP are continuing their investigation of the homicide, and Interior Health is conducting an internal review of the incident as well. Beyond the basics of the event, neither are releasing further details.

The victim's name has yet to be released.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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