Accused Lillooet murderer was in an automatist state: Psychologist - InfoNews

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Accused Lillooet murderer was in an automatist state: Psychologist

April 18, 2017 - 8:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - Jeffery Harris was so terrified moments before killing Gary Mandseth, his mind disassociated itself from his body.

That’s according to psychologist Dr. Peggy Koopman, who testified at the murder trial for a Lillooet man accused of beating his drug dealer to death two years ago.

Harris was a heroin user, who got his supply from 61-year-old Mandseth, often attending his house four to five times a day to inject the drug.

But on Feb. 10, 2015, things appeared to have taken a wrong turn. Defence lawyer Donna Turko called Koopman to the stand today, April 18, in Kamloops Supreme Court.

She told the jury her opinion is that at the time of the alleged murder, he was in an automatist state, meaning his mind has disassociated itself from his body. She says this was sparked by Harris being injected with cocaine when he thought he was receiving heroin.

“He went to that home for the purpose of injecting heroin,” Koopman said. “They went directly to (Mandseth’s) bathroom for the specific purpose of (Harris) injecting heroin.”

Automatism is a common law defence to a criminal charge because you cannot form a 'guilty mind' or mens rea in a disassociated state.

Koopman told the court that Harris told her Mandseth had fixed the needle for this particular injection. Koopman said Harris also told her Mandseth had questioned him about stealing from him.

Once Harris took the drug, he immediately felt like he was going to die, Koopman told the court, and believed he was suffering from the effects of intravenous cocaine usage.

“He said he felt that he was going to die at that moment, his fate was sealed,” she said. “It was imminent death.”

Harris felt as though he was drowning in a pool and Koopman says that’s when his cognitive functions split from his physical actions.

Koopman says this split is an extreme example of the body protecting itself and can leave someone with no recollection for hours of time. She says during an automatist stage, people can do things and never remember.

“The number of blows that were inflicted on the victim was enormous,” Koopman told the court. “This is unusual, but it’s not unusual under a situation of automatism.”

Koopman categorizes automatism into two different areas: insane and non-insane.

“In my opinion this would be a situation of non-insane automatism,” Koopman said.

This means the automatist state is less likely to recur but it is unpredictable if and when automatism will occur again.

Koopman said during her time with Harris, he showed empathy, remorse and insight.

While Crown prosecutor Chris Balison cross-examined Koopman, she told the court Harris went into the automatist state after being injected with intravenous cocaine, which he was not expecting.

She says Harris could tell he had been injected with cocaine because he had been before, although it’s not known when or how many times he had done it.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating at some point this week.

For more coverage on this trial, go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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