A Saskatoon judge will need to weigh two different explanations of Blake Schreiner’s killing of Tammy Brown: either he was incapable of knowing it was wrong, or he killed her over a looming breakup and child custody dispute.
Justice Ron Mills heard closing arguments at the first-degree murder trial Wednesday, where Crown prosecutor Melodi Kujawa said what appears to be a complex case can be summed up easily.
“This is simply another tragic domestic homicide in the context of a marital breakdown,” Kujawa said.
The Crown described the killing as the culmination of Schreiner’s unemployment, drinking and drug use spanning several years. He was concerned about losing custody of his two young children and decided that if he couldn’t have the kids, neither could Tammy, according to the Crown.
Schreiner admits to stabbing and killing his common-law spouse in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, 2019. An autopsy showed Tammy was stabbed approximately 80 times. The central issue of the trial is whether Schreiner had a mental illness that left him incapable of knowing his actions were wrong, which would result in a not criminally responsible (NCR) finding.
Justice Mills is scheduled to deliver his verdict June 7. Schreiner has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, but could also be found guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Court heard lengthy testimony from Schreiner about supernatural visions, which Kujawa argued were “clearly borrowed” from his use of magic mushrooms.
A set of journals documents the experiences, including how Schreiner thought he was a king or Jesus Christ and wanted to name his disciples. One journal states he used magic mushrooms in the hours before he killed his partner, but a later journal states he wasn’t on drugs at the time.
Kujawa said Schreiner made the change and gave conflicting statements to mental health professionals to create “the fiction that becomes his whole NCR defence.”
“You don’t get to have that many stories and still be credible,” she said.
Defence lawyer Brad Mitchell argued the journals contain the hallmarks of schizotypal personality disorder, including magical thinking, odd ideas and perception issues, among other symptoms.
“These are thoughts of someone who is extremely, extremely unwell,” Mitchell told court.
While Schreiner gave “hard to follow, cryptic and incoherent testimony,” Mitchell said his client was truthful about his experiences and his evidence should be accepted by the judge.
The defence lawyer described Schreiner’s actions as the evolution of the accused’s declining mental health that took place over several years.
The schizotypal personality disorder diagnosis came from forensic psychiatrist. Dr. Mansfield Mela, who testified as a defence witness. A Saskatchewan Hospital assessment team did not diagnosis him with the condition, which is on the schizophrenia spectrum.
Dr. Mela also diagnosed Schreiner with social anxiety disorder, alcohol use disorder and hallucinogen use disorder.
Mitchell argued Dr. Mela’s report was based on the most sources, and provided the most appropriate analysis. The defence argued the Saskatchewan Hospital’s forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Olajide Adelugba, took “inaccurate, incomplete and completely unreliable.”
Dr. Adelugba diagnosed Schreiner with alcohol use disorder, cannabis use disorder, alcohol-induced mood disorder, generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks and depression with prominent anxiety symptoms.
Kujawa argued any errors in Dr. Adelugba’s assessment don’t negate his overall findings. She said Dr. Mela’s report lacked corroboration from Schreiner’s family members, and the ultimate diagnosis doesn’t align with criteria including Schreiner’s age, social circle and general demeanor.