Whitehorse Daily Star

Court told how crack cocaine can impact one’s mental state

Court told how crack cocaine can impact one’s mental state

By Emily Blake on November 30, 2017

An expert forensic psychiatrist says Darryl Sheepway’s mental state was “abnormal” when he shot and killed Christopher Brisson in August 2015.

Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe testified in Sheepway’s defence Wednesday in Yukon Supreme Court.

Sheepway is on trial facing a first-degree murder charge in Brisson’s death.

Lohrasbe explained to the court how crack cocaine intoxication and addiction can impact mental effects.

But he stressed that his findings in Sheepway’s case were purely from a psychiatric rather than legal perspective.

Lohrasbe said that crack cocaine causes people to get high very quickly and then crash very quickly.

And experiencing these jagged highs and lows can lead users to be irritated and edgy.

“It’s a very disorienting experience, normality starts to fall away,” Lohrasbe said.

When users crash, he added, they experience changes in blood pressure, heart rate and temperature, and feel jittery and “not right.”

Because the lows are lower than normal, he said, users are often “frantic” to get more of the drug.

“People don’t want to believe they are going down this hole of despair but know they are,” he said.

Other effects from crack cocaine use include focusing on the drug while everything else, including caring about values and consequences, is tuned out.

“It’s a mindset where you are disconnected from the many realities of your normal life. It frames how you see things,” Lohrasbe said. “It hijacks awareness essentially.”

Users can also be hyperreactive where they respond impulsively and excessively to stimuli.

Lohrasbe said Sheepway was experiencing these symptoms along with being chronically sleep-deprived when he met Brisson on the McLean Lake Road on Aug. 28, 2015.

Sheepway testified that he was planning to rob Brisson for drugs using his shotgun. He claimed that he expected Brisson to comply when he pointed the shotgun at him, but Brisson grabbed the gun and they struggled over it.

Lohrasbe testified that Sheepway would have hyperreacted to that unexpected event.

Sheepway likely would not have insight nor grasp consequences at the time, Lohrasbe added.

But he said that while Sheepway’s mental state was abnormal, he was not experiencing the psychotic symptoms that can result from excessive cocaine use.

During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Leo Lane noted that Sheepway made rational, goal-oriented decisions before and after Brisson’s death.

This included planning the robbery and later getting rid of evidence.

Lohrasbe testified that goal-directed behaviour can co-exist with “grossly abnormal” mental states.

He added that according to Sheepway, he had become very skilled in maintaining a “facade of normality” to hide his drug use.

Lohrasbe also said that a major event like Brisson’s death could have caused Sheepway to become more clear and coherent.

“It’s like a slap in the face; wake up,” he said.

Lohrasbe conceded that his findings were largely based on Sheepway’s claims about his drug use and what happened on the McLean Lake Road.

He said there was no way to be certain about Sheepway’s level of intoxication nor how much crack cocaine he used that day.

“I think it’s a reasonable assumption that that was what was going on but I’m in no way saying it was a certainty,” Lohrasbe said of his findings.

Crown prosecutors hope to call forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Klassen to provide rebuttal evidence.

A hearing that will decide whether his evidence is admissible will be scheduled later today.

Justice Leigh Gower is hearing the case.

Comments (9)

Up 3 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on Dec 4, 2017 at 8:58 pm

When is it ok to take a life? When you're so drunk you run the stop sign? when you pass on the right through a cross walk? cause you're in a hurry.. when someone calls you names and you 'just lose it"? When, oh..i'm a junkie, the other guy is a low down pusher? so i'll just kill him and steal his product, its ok then? How about when those rotten kids are breaking into your car again? that ok? You think its you or them? then its ok?

Where does society draw the line on how tolerant we are going to be? How forgiving are we going to be for some one else's tragedy? A pusher, a junkie..someones father, son, brother, husband, friend.. but not mine...

The forensic psychiatrist is going to say..Sheepway wasn't his 'true' self.. he was acting under the influence, his sense of right and wrong was skewed.. because that is what they all say.. i want Sheepway to get more than a slap on the wrist for taking a life which is about what he'll get with Yukon justice.

Up 6 Down 2

a person on Dec 2, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Destroying lives was Chris Brisson's stock and trade. I do not see him as a victim. If I were the judge I'd take that into account. What Brisson was doing there when he got shot. I still remember Ralph Klassen getting manslaughter for choking his estranged wife to death after stalking her all across the country. He said she said all kinds of nasty things to him, causing him to lose his temper and choke her to death then tie a pillow case around her neck to make sure she didn't revive.

If Susan Klassen 'had a hand in her own death' by 'causing' to some extent Ralph Klassen's state of mind, then where does this leave us with this 2 time loser crack dealer Christopher Brisson?

RIP Susan Klassen. I mean no disrespect to her.

Up 5 Down 2

Bill williams on Dec 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm

The mind of an addict is not the mind of the true person. I grew up here and have seen the ravages these drugs have had on people I know. Never think you are above the taste of drugs. Doctors, lawyers, carpenters, police all suffer the addiction. As far as Mr Sheepway goes, If there never was the insidious drug there would have been no crime. As far as Mr Brisson is concerned he is in a better place and so is his business.

Up 3 Down 1

Josey Wales on Dec 1, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Hey kJ....normal?
Say if that other human puts you or others around you in grave danger.
...unless you believe a hug and some poetry read will suffice in a situation as my fictional example illustrates.

Up 1 Down 1

Josey Wales on Dec 1, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Guncache...they already have got rid of those pesky excuses as you stated.
They have been replaced with the ever popular NCA, about as commonplace now as cell phones in Canada.
Depending where on the alleged victim spectrum one may be interpreted to reside will most certainly rid the need to even make excuses now we lean so so much on NCR as of late.
...yes the excuses are gone, now it is wash, lather, rinse...repeat without the fuss.

Up 7 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Dec 1, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Back in the day there were always a few coke heads around. It took some people down but most grew out of it. Then along came crack cocaine (and meth, opioids, etc) and that stuff is deadly and almost nobody once hooked survives. I don't have sympathy for this guy and the dealer and the whole network involved in the hard drug epidemic but I do have an understanding about just how dangerous these substances are and the huge amount of collateral damage done.

The fact that right now within probably about 1/2 hour in downtown Whitehorse you can get all the crack, meth etc you want, is the big issue.

Another real crying shame is that for sometime now workplace drug testing would pick off people for smoking a joint on a Friday night 2 weeks prior but you can do all the crack and whiskey you can get your hands on and pass that test and be at work the next week. We really need to bring some common sense and real justice into society when it comes to these hard drugs and prescription drug abuses. To many dealers, manufacturers and suit and tie enablers getting away with bad things.

Up 9 Down 1

Kj on Dec 1, 2017 at 7:10 am

When would someone’s mental state be deemed “normal” while shooting another human being multiple times with a shotgun?

Up 13 Down 1

Guncache on Nov 30, 2017 at 9:36 pm

So if you are high on drugs or alcohol it's an excuse to kill someone? Time to get rid of these insane excuses

Up 10 Down 1

Bob Scott on Nov 30, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Our society makes too many excuses for alcohol and drug related offences. If you take alcohol or drugs and you become addicted or not you should be found guilty of the charges if you committed the offence. Addiction is not an illness. It is simply and purely about bad choices and people behaving badly. We need to back up to when we geared off the common sense path. Our legal system needs to be completely rejigged!

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