Closing arguments made in trial for man accused of murdering Winnipeg taxi driver

Closing arguments were made Friday in the case of a Winnipeg man accused of murdering a Duffy’s Taxi driver.

Lawyers for Okoth Obeing, 22, argued their client didn’t have conscious control of his thoughts or actions when he killed 44-year-old Balvir Toor during the early morning hours of Mar.19, 2020 in his cab on Burrows Ave.

“This is truly a tragic case,” defence lawyer Alex Steigerwald told the court Friday.  “Mr. Toor was an innocent man who lost his life and nothing can bring him back.

But it was not the same Okoth Obeing sitting before you today.  It was a severely ill Mr. Obeing who stabbed Mr. Toor.”

In a lengthy interview with Winnipeg Police Service detectives hours after Toor’s death, Obeing admits to the killing.

“That’s the truth, I told you,” Obeing can be heard telling officers in the video which was played in court.  “He’s dead.  I killed him.”

Obeing lives with bipolar disorder and an intellectual disability which an expert testified left him unable to use thought to control his behaviour when he reached for his knife and stabbed Toor.

The Crown acknowledged he was suffering from a mental illness but told Court of King’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey it isn’t the only factor in the case.

“When Mr. Obeing got into cab 390 and plunged an eight and a half inch blade into Balvir Toor 17 times, killing him, he was mentally ill…suffering the effects of his bipolar disorder,” Crown attorney Chantal Boutin told the court.  “But along with his illness and his eight and a half inch knife with a brass knuckle duster, he also got into Mr. Toor’s cab with his frustrations, his animus and his anger.”

Court has heard Obeing had previous disputes with cab drivers. He acknowledged to police he felt disrespected about being asked for prepayments and that killing Toor was the “best (expletive) feeling in the world.”

“When Mr. Toor disrespected him with yet another demand for an upfront payment that was the last straw,” Boutin argued.

Boutin agreed Obeing shouldn’t have been discharged from hospital nine days before the stabbing but she argued his actions were intentional and warrant a conviction for second-degree murder.

“Mr. Obeing quieted and told Mr. Toor, ‘just drive bro.  Just drive,’” Boutin told Justice McKelvey.  “Then he made a deliberate, rational and very conscious choice to get up from in behind the driver’s seat where that plastic shield was.”

He pulled out his knife and asked, ‘how much is it? Five-thousand dollars?’ and stabbed Mr. Toor repeatedly.”

Court has heard Obeing was off his medication at the time and was experiencing an episode of mania which came out in the form of anger and aggression.

The defence argued the evidence has proven he didn’t appreciate or understand the physical consequences of his actions and didn’t’ have conscious control.

“We ask for a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder,” Steigerwald told the court.

“It was because of mental illness that this tragedy occurred.”

Justice McKelvey told the court it will take some time to go through the large volume of evidence presented during the trial.

She expects to deliver a decision on Mar.14 at 9 a.m.

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