Early on a Sunday morning in June of 2021, Nathaniel Veltman told a co-worker he expected to have a rough day on the job. Veltman worked at an egg-processing plant in the town of Strathroy, Ontario, where his duties involved loading 20-pound crates of eggs onto skids, then loading the skids onto trucks, and he wasn’t feeling up to hours of manual labour. “Yeah, man, just so many shrooms last night,” he said. “I went to hell and I saw Satan.”
If Hicks seeks a not-guilty plea on the basis that Veltman was mentally ill, he will have to convince Justice Pomerance that the young man didn’t understand his actions. Defence lawyers for the man who drove a rented van onto a Toronto sidewalk in 2018, killing 11 people (including one who died in 2021, after more than three years in hospital), tried a similar argument, which was rejected by the judge in that case.
Michael Spratt is an Ottawa defence lawyer, a criminal law specialist and a frequent legal commentator (he is not involved in this case). “Running that sort of defence can be an uphill battle for an accused,” says Spratt. “It’s Hicks’s onus to show that Veltman suffered from a psychiatric illness that prevented him from understanding the nature and consequences of actions. That he was not able, essentially, to tell right from wrong.”
Read Stephen Maher’s full story: Maclean’s