The defence barrister for accused Bourke Street driver James Gargasoulas has urged a jury to remain objective despite the “terrible and overwhelmingly sad circumstances”, as he fronted a hearing to determine if he is unfit to stand trial.
Mr Gargasoulas is charged with six counts of murder, 28 counts of attempted murder, robbery, false imprisonment, threatening to kill and reckless conduct endangering life stemming from the incident in Bourke Street on January 20, 2017.
Defence barrister Dr Theo Alexander told the jury it was not their job to determine whether Mr Gargasoulas was guilty of the crimes, but whether he was mentally fit to stand trial.
“We ask — and we are sure — that you will apply your minds to that question impartially and objectively, not withstanding the terrible and overwhelmingly sad circumstances,” he said.
The 12 jurors will hear evidence from three consultant psychiatrists and a psychologist about Mr Gargasoulas’ schizophrenia diagnosis and his current condition.
The court heard two of the psychiatrists found Mr Gargasoulas was unfit to stand trial, while the psychologist has found he was fit.
There is a presumption an accused is fit to stand trial unless it can be shown they are unable to understand the case against them or meaningfully participate in a trial.
Dr Alexander told the jury the evidence will show Mr Gargasoulas was unable to enter a plea to the charges, exercise his right to challenge jurors, unable to understand the effect of the evidence against him and unable to give instructions to his lawyers.
But prosecutor Andrew Tinney SC said they would argue Mr Gargasoulas is fit to stand trial.
The jury will determine whether Mr Gargasoulas is fit to stand trial on the balance of probabilities, which is a lower burden of proof than in a criminal trial where the prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
The hearing before Justice Lex Lasry is expected to run for another four days.