Judge Kevin Coady of Nova Scotia Supreme Court decided Glen Race was too mentally ill with schizophrenia to understand that his "psychotic mission " was morally wrong.
"It is important to realize that Mr. Race, his family and friends are victims as well," Coady said in a written decision. "They are victims of the cruel and unforgiving illness of schizophrenia."
Outside the court, Race's mother, Donna, reached out to the families of the two victims, Trevor Brewster and Paul Michael Knott.
"We hope that the families, the Brewster and Knott families, will find forgiveness some day in their hearts and that they can go on and be peaceful," she said.
The hearing Friday started with the reading of a victim impact statement from Brewster's sister, Robenia.
"I hate him for what he did to our families," the statement said. "We have to go to a graveyard and talk to a cold gravestone. It doesn't seem fair to me."
Race pleaded guilty in September to first-degree murder in the death of Brewster, and second-degree murder in Knott's death.
At a court hearing in November, Coady was presented with an agreed statement of facts based on the findings of three psychiatric experts who said Race believed he was a vampire slayer and a godlike entity ordered by angels to cleanse the world of demons and sin.
Both the Crown and the defence recommended Race, 32, should be declared not criminally responsible for his actions due to mental illness.
Race's lawyer, Joel Pink, told the court his client wasn't taking his medication and was in a full-blown psychotic state when he lured the two gay men to their deaths.
Knott, 44, was fatally stabbed on May 1, 2007, in his car while parked near the Citadel Hill historic site in downtown Halifax. Brewster, 45, was stabbed and bludgeoned six days later near Frenchman Lake, a secluded spot in a Halifax-area industrial park.
Both areas are known to be frequented by gay men seeking sexual liaisons.
The killings attracted national attention when Halifax police took the rare step of warning people they should use caution in areas where gay men cruise for sex.
In his decision, Coady said he accepted that Race sought out gay men only because they were easy targets, and "not because he had any hang-ups about gay men."
Even though the three experts agreed that Race's psychotic state left him incapable of understanding that what he was doing was morally wrong, one of the psychiatrists told the court he was troubled by certain "red flags."
Dr. Hy Bloom said it was difficult for him to reconcile the fact that Race had the wherewithal to stab his victims, hide their bodies and then flee 5,000 kilometres to within metres of the Mexican border — all within a two-week span — even though he was apparently suffering from severe psychotic delusions.
Bloom said there's no question Race knew what he did was legally wrong, given the efforts he made to avoid arrest.
However, Bloom said that even though Race was gifted at suppressing his symptoms while in public, he said Race couldn't have made a rational, moral decision at the time of the killings due to the "all-encompassing nature of his psychotic symptoms."
Another psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Hucker, read from a report in which he quoted Race as saying, "In April (2007) I was God ... I got sent to Halifax to wage a war on demons."
Despite Coady's decision, Race's legal challenges are far from over.
Race was extradited from the United States in October 2010 to face the charges in Halifax after he was sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of 35-year-old mechanic Darcy Manor at a hunting camp in Upstate New York. That murder happened three days after Race killed Brewster.
Within the next 45 days, Race is expected to be sent back to the U.S., where he will continue serving his sentence.
However, Pink said he wants to file an appeal of the U.S. conviction based on the expert psychiatric evidence presented in Halifax.
"This is only the start of a long battle that he has ahead of him," Pink said outside the court. "I personally feel there has been a miscarriage of justice (in the U.S.) ... We now have five medical doctors who all say he's NCR (not criminally responsible)."
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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Race's lawyer filed an application to have his client declared not criminally responsible this year.Suggest a correction