News / Toronto

Toronto senior found guilty of second-degree murder in nursing home death

A 76-year-old Toronto man has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of a fellow long-term care home resident.

Peter Brooks (right) has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of fellow nursing home resident Joycelyn Dickson, 72, (left).

Contributed

Peter Brooks (right) has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of fellow nursing home resident Joycelyn Dickson, 72, (left).

TORONTO — A Toronto senior who used his cane to attack a fellow long-term care home resident more than three years ago was found guilty late Thursday of second-degree murder in the woman's death.

Peter Brooks, 76, had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 72-year-old Jocelyn Dickson.

He was also charged with the attempted murder of another fellow resident, 91-year-old Lourdes Missier, but was found not guilty on that charge.

Brooks, who has been in custody and attended his trial in a wheelchair, had testified that a spirit in a dream had told him to "beat the crap" out of the two women and insisted he didn't actually intend to harm anyone.

A second degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence.  A sentencing hearing is set for January to determine parole eligibility.

His trial heard that late one night in March 2013, Brooks used his cane to attack Dickson and Missier in their beds at the Wexford Residence in Toronto's east end.

Brooks' defence lawyer had urged jurors to find the elderly man not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder, arguing that Brooks has dementia and was unable to appreciate the nature of his actions.

But the Crown argued Brooks was not delusional and knew his actions were not only legally wrong, but morally wrong as well.

The trial heard Brooks, who came to Canada from Jamaica decades ago, had testy relations with both Dickson and Missier, who he described as "annoying" and aggravating him constantly.

The jury heard Brooks attacked Missier first, swinging his cane at the head of the woman who was awake at the time and raised her hands to protect herself. She was left with fractured fingers, bruises and lacerations on her face.

While staff were responding to what happened to Missier, Brooks quietly made his way to another floor, where Dickson, a woman who was paralysed on one side of her body, was asleep in her bed, the trial heard.

Using his cane once more, Brooks delivered at least seven distinct blows to Dickson's head causing "massive" injuries that led to the woman's death, the Crown has said. The force of the blows was strong enough to break off the top of Brooks' cane.

The trial heard that Brooks then tried to make his way to the room of another woman he had a rocky relationship with but was stopped by staff who, only after a violent struggle, were able to wrestle away his cane.

Brooks' lawyer had argued that his client believed residents at the Wexford were "conspiring against him" and consequently felt justified in his actions because of his delusional belief.

The defence lawyer also suggested staff at the nursing home completely mishandled the situation on the night of the attacks, calling them "incompetent and ill-equipped."

Brooks testified he believed the women who were attacked were united in an alleged attempt to have him moved out of the facility.

Two forensic psychiatrists who testified at the trial found Brooks had dementia, though they disagreed on the level of the condition, with one saying it was mild and the other saying it was moderate.

Both psychiatrists also agreed Brooks has damage to the frontal lobe of his brain — which deals with impulse control, emotional regulation and perspective — appeared disinhibited, and did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of the proceedings against him.

The psychiatrists disagreed, however, on the extent of the dementia's effect on Brooks and his actions — one found it was only probable that Brooks was acting on a delusion on the night of the attacks while the other said it was possible.

The trial also heard from a geriatric psychiatrist who assessed Brooks a year before the attacks and found the senior represented a "chronic risk" to the home's frail residents.

Dr. Stephen Barsky told the trial that he examined Brooks in April 2012 after receiving reports of three incidents of aggression by the man against other residents at the home and found the man somewhat irritable, sarcastic and not fully co-operative.

Barsky said he had concerns about Brooks' level of judgement and felt the senior would be better off in a psychiatric group home where there might not be other frail elderly people he could prey on.

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