Murder

Kalen Schlatter Appeals Guilty Murder Verdict Claiming Unlawfully Obtained Evidence

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In March 2020, Kalen Schlatter (“Schlatter”) was convicted of first degree murder in the highly publicized death of Tess Richey (“Richey”), and sentenced to 25 years in prison with no parole.

Schlatter was tried before a jury for the first degree murder of Richey in Toronto on November 25, 2017.  Justice Michael Dambrot, in sentencing Schlatter, noted that his “appetite for violent sex” led him to strangle Richey only hours after they met. 

Schlatter has filed a notice of appeal regarding his conviction on the basis that the trial judge made errors in instructing the jurors and admitting evidence at the trial.

WHAT IS AN APPEAL?

In general, an appeal is a request made by a party to a higher court to review a lower court trial or other decision.  In Ontario, the Court of Appeal is the proper forum to review decisions of serious criminal matters.  An appeal from the decision of a trial court judge of the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario is typically heard before a panel of three judges at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The first step in commencing the appeal process is to file a form called a notice of appeal.  The notice must state what is being appealed, i.e. the conviction, the sentence or both.  The notice must also briefly describe the grounds of the appeal or the mistakes that were allegedly made at the trial.

SCHLATTER’S APPEAL WILL FOCUS ON TRIAL JUDGE’S ERRORS

On appeal, Schlatter will argue that the trial judge gave “unbalanced” instructions to the jurors.  Furthermore, he alleges that the trial judge erred in admitting the evidence of two undercover officers who testified regarding their conversations with Schlatter from adjacent jail cells after his arrest.

In February 2018, Schlatter was arrested and taken to 13 Division where he was booked and placed in one of the cells in the police station.  Two undercover police officers were placed in the cells adjacent to him.  Schlatter had lengthy conversations with both officers over the course of his incarceration. 

At his trial, Schlatter asked the court for a ruling that his right to silence guaranteed under section 7 of the Charter was infringed when he made statements to undercover police officers in adjacent jail cells and that these statements should be excluded from evidence. 

The trial judge heard arguments from counsel for both parties and ultimately ruled that Schlatter’s right to silence was not violated and therefore allowed the statements made to the undercover officers to be entered at the trial.

Justice Dambrot explained the circumstances by which undercover officers can elicit information and how the officers interacted with Schlatter:

An undercover police officer may be placed in the police cells with a detained suspect and make observations.  If the suspect speaks, it is by his or her own choice, and he or she must be taken to have accepted the risk that the recipient may inform the police.  But the undercover officer may not actively elicit information in violation of the suspect’s choice to remain silent.

Importantly, UCI did not ask the accused what he had done, but only why he was in police custody.  The natural answer would have been to say that the police thought he had murdered someone, not to give an account of his involvement.  … They did not encourage the accused to keep on telling them about his connection to Ms. Richey or his account of what happened.

UNDERCOVER OFFICER TESTIMONY AT TRIAL

At the trial, one of the officers testified from behind a large black screen to preserve his anonymity regarding his conversations with Schlatter (these conversations were not recorded).  

According to the evidence at trial, Schlatter boasted to the undercover officers about  his ability to pick up women.  He told the officers that he “likes a challenge” and that “sometimes you have to push the boundaries with women to see where it goes”. 

The officer testified:

Mr Schlatter said that what he did was something big…  He then asked us if we know a girl named Tess Richey.

Schlatter told the undercover officers that he had met Richey at a nearby nightclub and as the night progressed he ended up on the street with Richey and her friend.  The friend took a streetcar home and left Schlatter alone with Richey.  Schlatter told the undercoverofficer that he was making out with her in an alley.  He wanted to have sex with her, but she told him she couldn’t because she was on her period.  Schlatter said that Richey was falling over drunk and that he had her up against the wall at the bottom of the stairs.  Schlatter told the officers that they stopped kissing and Richey said she wanted to stay at the bottom of the stairwell, so he left on his own. 

We will continue to follow this criminal case as it makes its way to the Court of Appeal and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We have a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Appeal Court Expunges the Defence of Self-Induced Intoxication

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, amidst great controversy, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in the cases of R. v. Sullivan and R. v. Chan regarding the application of the defence of self-induced intoxication. 

This significant decision declared that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) is unconstitutional and of no force or effect.

SECTION 33.1 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE

Section 33.1 of the CC established that if an accused caused his/her own intoxication and commits a violent offence, he/she cannot claim that he/she was too intoxicated to be found guilty of even general intent offences (i.e. assault and sexual assault).  This applies even if he/she was intoxicated to the point of automatism (the performance of an action unconsciously or involuntarily), even if his/her acts were involuntary or he/she lacked the mental state to commit the violent act.

In its latest decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal determined that this law breached “virtually all the criminal law principles that the law relies upon to protect the morally innocent, including the venerable presumption of innocence”.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SULLIVAN CASE?

In the case of David Sullivan, the accused over-consumed prescription medication in an attempt to take his own life.  The medication left him in a state of extreme psychosis.  During the psychotic episode, he believed he had captured an alien and proceeded to stab his mother.

At trial, Sullivan was found guilty of the violent offence despite Sullivan’s contention that his intoxication was involuntary as it resulted from a suicide attempt. 

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CHAN CASE?

Thomas Chan, a high school student, stabbed and killed his father and severely injured his father’s partner during a psychotic episode after consuming magic mushrooms.  Chan believed he was a deity and that his father was the devil. 

At trial, Chan also attempted to rely upon the defence of non-mental disorder automatism.  Given section 33.1, which prohibits the use of automatism as a defence in cases of violence when an accused’s intoxication was self-inflicted, this defence failed and Chan was convicted.

THE COURT OF APPEAL’S DECISION REGARDING SECTION 33.1 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE

The Court of Appeal found that section 33.1 of the CC violated the following sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

  1. The right to life, liberty and security of the person (section 7); and
  2. The right to the presumption of innocence (section 11(d)).

Under Canadian law, if a law violates a Charter right, in certain circumstances it can be justified by the Crown and upheld despite the violations.  In this case, the Appeal Court could not find benefits to the law, and instead found that the law was contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal wrote:

Put simply, the deleterious effects of s.33.1 include the contravention of virtually all the criminal law principles that the law relies upon to protect the morally innocent, including the venerable presumption of innocence. …

With very little true gain, Parliament has attempted to cast aside the bedrock of moral fault.

The Court of Appeal held that a person must act voluntarily to commit a crime.  Although lawmakers attempted to help victims attain justice with the introduction of section 33.1 of the CC, the law in actuality violated an accused’s rights by making them responsible for violence they had no control over.  Justices David Paciocco and David Watt wrote:

As for recognizing and promoting the equality, security and dignity of crime victims, it is obvious that those few victims who may see their offenders acquitted without s.33.1 will be poorly served.  They are victims, whether their attacked willed or intended the attack.  However, to convict an attacker of offences for which they do not bear the moral fault required by the Charter to void this outcome, is to replace on injustice for another, and at an intolerable cost to the core principles that animate criminal liability.

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Chan as he was only convicted of offences that included an element of assault and those convictions depended upon section 33.1.  On the other hand, the Court of Appeal acquitted Sullivan of all of his charges.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Crown prosecutor has advised that it will be seeking leave to appeal these decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund has strongly expressed its frustration over this Court of Appeal decision and believes that this decision sends a message “that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication”.

However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has expressed that the concern that the floodgates have been opened to men arguing the defence of intoxication are unwarranted.  An accused must still prove that he/she was in a state of automatism, not merely drunk.

Cara Zwibel, Director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, stated:

This is a rarely used provision.  It’s not this widespread, systemic concern.

We will continue to follow the law as it evolves in response to the recent Ontario Court of Appeal decisions and will report any developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1047.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting their client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Trudeau Calls for More Gun Control in Canada Following Deadly Rampage in Nova Scotia

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In response to the recent tragic shooting incident in Nova Scotia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will work towards strengthening gun control legislation in Canada as soon as possible.

It is the Prime Minister’s intention to introduce legislation to ban assault-style weapons across Canada when Parliament resumes. 

PM Trudeau stated:

The tragedy in Nova Scotia simply reinforces and underlines how important it is for us to continue to move forward on strengthening gun control. … We were on the verge of introducing new measures to restrict assault type weapons in Canada before Parliament was suspended because of COVID-19.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has also indicated that the federal government is working towards efforts to reinforce gun control, which will include new legislation to strengthen gun storage rules to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of those who could commit crimes, decrease smuggling of firearms across the border and introduce new laws to ensure that individuals that are at a significant risk of harming themselves or others do not have access to firearms.

FIREARMS ACT CHANGES OF 2019 ARE STILL PENDING

Bill C-71, an act to amend legislation in relation to firearms in Canada, was passed into law in May 2019 and provided approximately 30 amendments to the Firearms Act.  This legislation enhances background checks, compels retailers to keep records of firearms sales (dates, references, license numbers, firearm’s make, model, type and serial number) and varies the authorization to transport rules (a licensed gun owner must possess an authorization to transport document if they want to travel with a restricted firearm). 

Bill C-71 also requires that the police examine an applicant’s life history for potential red flags, including criminal charges, violence and spousal abuse.  However, these amendments are still pending. 

A spokesperson for Minster Blair advised that Bill C-71 provisions will come into force “once the necessary administrative changes have been made, funding has been approved and the associated regulations have been tabled in Parliament for review”.  In February 2020, Minister Blair advised that the enactment of C-71 amendments were ongoing and would be addressed in the upcoming budget.  However, the federal budget has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHAT HAPPENED IN NOVA SCOTIA?

On April 18, 2020 at 10:26 p.m., RCMP officers arrived in Portapique, Nova Scotia following 911 calls reporting gunshots.  The officers found a man that had been shot.  He reported that as he drove out of Portapique he was shot by a man driving what looked like a police car towards the beach.

As more officers responded to the scene, they located several deceased individuals lying in the roadway and several structures fully engulfed in flames. 

The suspect at the time, Gabriel Wortman (“Wortman”), a 51-year-old denturist, was identified by several witnesses. 

On Sunday morning, a woman who had previously been in a relationship with Wortman emerged from the woods and explained that she had escaped from Wortman and hid in the woods until it was safe to emerge.  It seems that the deadly events began when Wortman assaulted this woman and she escaped.  She told police that the suspect was in possession of a fully modern and equipped replica RCMP vehicle, was wearing a police uniform and had several firearms, including pistols and long barrel weapons.

Wortman proceeded to go on a 14-hour killing spree, targeting individuals he knew and strangers in a string of small communities in central Nova Scotia.  There were 16 crime scenes along a 40-mile stretch north of the Bay of Fundy.  He set fire to five properties, including his own log cabin in Portapique. 

Wortman was traveling south near Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, when he collided with a police cruiser.  He proceeded to exchange gunfire with Constable Heidi Stevenson, a 23-year veteran of the RCMP, and killed her.  He then set fire to both Stevenson’s vehicle and his own. 

Wortman then killed another individual and stole her silver Chevrolet Tracker.  When he finally stopped to fill up the car with gas, he was spotted by an officer in an unmarked cruiser.  Wortman was eventually killed following an exchange of gunfire with police at the gas station in Enfield, north of Halifax.

We have come to learn that Wortman had been previously convicted of assault in 2002 and received a conditional discharge.  He was ordered to undergo counselling for anger management and banned from possession of firearms, explosives and any prohibited weapons for nine months.  He was also ordered to pay a fine.

At this time, investigators continue to piece together details of Wortman’s rampage and how he was able to obtain the firearms used during his deadly attack, as well as the decals for his fake police car.  Police believe that one of the weapons can be traced back to Canada, but others may have been obtained in the United States. 

As information becomes available, we will continue to report changes in the law regarding firearms in Canada in this blog.

If you have been charged with a weapons offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

New Trial Ordered for Homeowner Who Killed Car Thief

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a unanimous decision, a Hamilton-area man who killed a car thief in front of his home has been ordered to stand trial on the charge of second-degree murder. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned Peter Khill’s (“Khill”) finding of not guilty.

On appeal, the court has ruled that the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider Khill’s conduct leading up to the moment he pulled the trigger and killed Jon Styres (“Styres”), a First Nations man.

In June 2018 (please see our blog regarding the trial), Khill, a homeowner and former army reservist, was found not guilty following a 12-day jury trial where he maintained that he fired his gun in self-defence.  An individual can use reasonable force to alleviate a threat to themselves or others under the laws of self-defence in Canada.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On February 4, 2016 at approximately 3 a.m., Khill and his girlfriend were woken up by two loud, banging noises.  When he looked outside, Khill saw that the lights were on in his 2001 GMC pickup truck.

Given his military training, Khill proceeded to grab a 12 gauge shotgun from his bedroom closet.  He loaded it with two shells and ran outside to confront Styres, who was trying to steal his truck.  He came up behind Styres, who was leaning over the passenger-side seat, and shouted “Hey, hands up!”.  Styres reacted by turning toward Khill with his hands sweeping forward in a motion that allegedly led Khill to believe that he had a gun.  Khill argued that this response provoked him to fire two close-range shots that killed Styres, almost immediately. 

At his trial, Khill told the court:

I felt that I was being threatened and that I wasn’t in control of the situation.  I needed to gain control of the situation and neutralize any threat that was there. … I thought my life was in danger and I think the right to self-defence is overlapping between military and civilian life.

The Crown prosecutor argued that Styres did not pose a reasonable threat and that Khill and his girlfriend should have called 911 and waited for police to arrive, rather than approach Styres with a loaded shotgun. 

At the trial, the jury learned that Styres did not have a gun that night and was only carrying a folding knife in his pocket.

Khill pleaded not guilty and his lawyer argued that the shooting was “justified” as Khill believed that Styres had a gun and he feared for his life.  Furthermore, it was argued that Khill was following his training as a military reservist and was acting reasonably to defend himself under the circumstances.  A Hamilton jury found Khill not guilty of the murder of Styres.

THE APPEAL

At the appeal, the Crown prosecutor argued that the trial judge made four errors.  It was argued that three of the errors involved instructions to the jury regarding self-defence and the fourth error was in regard to the admissibility of evidence from an expert.

The appeal court agreed with one of the Crown’s submissions of an error by the trial judge, allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial on the basis that the trial judge failed to appropriately instruct the jury.  Specifically, the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider Khill’s conduct leading up to the moment the trigger was pulled leaving them incompetent to evaluate the “reasonableness” of his actions.

The Appeal Court said:

Mr. Khil’s role in the incident leading up to the shooting was potentially a significant factor in the assessment of the reasonableness of the shooting.  The failure to explain that relevance and to instruct the jury on the need to consider Mr. Khill’s conduct throughout the incident in assessing the reasonableness of the shooting left the jury unequipped to grapple with what may have been a crucial question in the evaluation of the reasonableness of Mr. Khill’s act.  On this basis, the acquittal must be set aside and a new trial ordered.

Khill’s lawyer has stated that he is reviewing the appeal court decision and considering whether to make an application for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Khill is also facing an ongoing civil lawsuit for more than $2 million brought by Styres’ spouse and two young daughters.

We will continue to follow any updates regarding this case and will provide any new developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise. 

Parole Board of Canada Under Scrutiny After Convicted Killer Allegedly Kills Again

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A federal investigation has been launched to examine the Parole Board of Canada following charges laid against a convicted murderer who had been out on day parole.  A Canadian parole board granted a convicted murderer supervised release on day parole and gave permission for him to avail himself of the services of prostitutes at a Montreal erotic massage parlour.  He has now been charged with second-degree murder and questions about why he was granted permission to seek sexual satisfaction have not yet been answered.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Eustachio Gallese (“Gallese”) was found to have beaten his wife with a hammer before stabbing her to death with two knives on October 21, 2004.  In 2006, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for 15 years for the murder of his wife. 

Prior to this incident, in 1997, Gallese was also convicted of sexual assault against a romantic partner.

In 2007, the parole board concluded that Gallese was at “high risk” of violently re-offending. 

In 2016, the parole board reduced Gallese’s status of re-offending to “moderate” and further dropped it to “low to moderate” in 2019. 

In March of 2019, according to parole board documents, Gallese was granted supervised release on day parole at a halfway house based on his good behaviour.

Gallese was required to adhere to several conditions, including to report any relationships with women (sexual or otherwise) and he was forbidden to consume drugs or alcohol.

Gallese apparently discussed his concern about relations with women with his case workers.  Parole board records indicate the he was encouraged by his case workers to satisfy his “sexual needs” and was allowed to meet women “only for the purpose of responding to [his] sexual needs”.   

The parole board’s decision stated:

During the hearing, your parole officer underlined a strategy that was developed with the goal that would allow you to meet women in order to meet your sexual needs.  The hearing allowed us to realize you managed, and this with the approval of your case-management team, relations with women that the board considers inappropriate. 

The parole board found that the strategy “paradoxically constitutes a worrying and significant risk factor” and ordered that Gallese be re-evaluated for the terms of his parole in six months.

Two months prior to Gallese’s re-evaluation date, he turned himself in to police and told them where to find the body of Marylene Levesque (“Levesque”).  Her body was found in a hotel room in Quebec City’s Sainte-Foy neighbourhood.

Levesque had been working out of an erotic massage parlour.  Gallese had been banned from entering the massage parlour as he had been violent with other women, therefore he and Levesque met at a hotel.

Gallese has been charged with second-degree murder.

THE GOVERNMENT’S REACTION TO THE TRAGEDY

Last week, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion to condemn the Parole Board of Canada’s decision with respect to Gallese, which ultimately led to the death of Levesque by an inmate on day parole.

The motion also passed to allow the Public Safety Committee to conduct hearings and review changes made in 2017 to the parole board’s nomination process and recommend measures that need to be taken to avoid another “tragedy”.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has also confirmed that a federal investigation has begun “to deal with any issues of misconduct, negligence or error, but also to examine our policies, procedures and training that direct the work of the Parole Board and others involved in these decisions”.

Conservatives Pierre Paul-Hus and Glen Motz also condemned the parole board’s decision and stated:

[A] convicted murderer, with a history of domestic violence, out on day parole so that he could meet women in order to address his sexual needs. … The Liberal appointed Parole Board members demonstrated a clear lack of judgment in this case and must face consequences.

THE CRIMINALIZATION OF SEX WORK

This latest example of violence against a sex worker has reignited the debate regarding the criminalization of sex work in Canada. 

Those that advocate for the decriminalization of sex workers believe that the violence facing sex workers is driven by the devalued status of sex workers and their lack of police protection.  Erotic massage parlours must operate illicitly because clients and those that run, manage and work in the establishments (including security guards) are criminalized under Canadian law.  If violence does occur in these establishments, they are unable to report it to authorities due to the risk of criminal charges. 

We will continue to follow the developments regarding the federal investigation and review of the Parole Board of Canada, as well as any government reaction to those that call for the decriminalization of sex work in Canada, and will report any updates in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.  We are available when you need us most.

Criminal Convictions are in Jeopardy Following Clarification of New Rules For Jury Selection by the Appeal Court

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A recent ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the case of R. v. Chouhan, regarding how jury selection changes should be applied, could require new trials for those recently convicted in Ontario.

Pardeep Singh Chouhan (“Chouhan”) challenged the new rules for jury selection that were set out in Bill C-75 at the court of appeal.  The jury selection process in Chouhan’s first-degree murder trial took place on the same day as the changes to the legislation came into force.  The appeal court upheld the constitutionality of the new rules, however, ruled that the trial judge did not apply the new rules correctly.

WHAT CHANGES OCCURRED AS A RESULT OF BILL C-75?

As we have previously blogged, following the acquittal of Gerald Stanley, who was charged with killing a 22-year-old Indigenous man, Bill C-75 was introduced to modify the jury selection process in Canada.  The changes to jury selection were intended to make juries more representative.

The reform of the jury selection procedure under the new legislation, which came into force on September 19, 2019, is as follows:

  1. The trial judge will be the one to determine whether the prospective juror is likely to decide the case impartially in the circumstances when either party has challenged the juror for cause. 
  2. The ability to challenge prospective jurors by means of peremptory challenges by either party has been eliminated.
  3. The trial judge has been given the discretion to stand aside a juror for the purpose of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice.

WHAT HAPPENED AT CHOUHAN’S TRIAL?

Chouhan was charged with first-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of  Maninder Sandhu.  Chouhan was scheduled to select a jury for his murder trial on September 19, 2019, the same day that Bill C-75 and the changes to the jury selection process came into force.  We have previously blogged about this Superior Court decision.

At that time, Chouhan’s lawyers requested that the court use the previous jury selection rules as the new jury selection process violated Chouhan’s Charter rights.  The presiding judge rejected the defence arguments that doing away with peremptory challenges infringed Chouhan’s constitutional right to be tried by an independent and impartial jury.  Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon ruled that the new changes to the jury selection process should apply to every jury selected after the legislation came into force and for those cases in the system where the accused had already opted for a jury trial.

WHAT HAPPENED AT CHOUHAN’S APPEAL?

Chouhan’s case made its way to the court of appeal, at which point the unanimous court ruled that the new rules were constitutional and did not infringe Chouhan’s Charter rights.  However, the three judges of the appeal court held that the trial court did not apply the new rules appropriately.

Writing on behalf of the appeal court judges, Justice Watt wrote:

With respect to the temporal application of the amendments, I decide that the abolition of the peremptory challenge applies prospectively, that is to say, only to cases where the accused’s right to a trial by judge and jury vested on or after September 19, 2019.  …[T]he amendment making the presiding judge the trier of all challenges for cause applies retrospectively, that is to say, to all cases tried on or after September 19, 2019, irrespective of when the right vested.

[N]ot all accused charged with an offence before September 19, 2019 have a vested right to a trial by judge and jury under the former legislation.  For the right to have vested, the accused must have, before September 19, 2019:

(i) been charged with an offence within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Superior Court;

(ii) been directly indicted; or

(iii) elected for a trial in Superior Court by judge and jury.

The Court of Appeal allowed Chouhan’s appeal, set aside his conviction and ordered a new trial on the indictment.

The Ontario government can appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.  We understand that the Crown is currently reviewing the appeal court decision and we will provide an update in this blog when information regarding the government’s decision on an appeal becomes available.

We will continue to follow the affects of the Chouhan decision on legal cases and will provide updates in this blog.  We can advise that only hours after the appeal court decision in the Chouhan case, two cases being heard in Toronto’s Superior Court (a murder charge and a sexual assault case) were declared mistrials.

If you have questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP at 905-404-1947 or contact us online.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24/7.

Crime Rate in Canada Reported by Police Up Slightly

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s crime rate increased for a fourth year in a row.  The overall crime rate was found to have gone up by two per cent in 2018 over the previous year, however, it is still lower than the rate of crime 10 years ago. 

The crime rate report entitled “Police-reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2018” published by Statistics Canada is based upon data obtained from Canadian police forces, and does not include any crimes that were not reported to the police.

POLICE-REPORTED CRIME STATISTICS IN CANADA, 2018

Statistics Canada has been collecting information from all Canadian police services regarding criminal incidents reported to the police since 1962.  In 2018, there were more than two million police-reported Criminal Code incidents.

In Canada, there were several significant criminal incidents that occurred in 2018 resulting in the loss of numerous lives and numerous personal injuries.  One of these incidents was the attack on pedestrians that were deliberately struck by a van in the North York City Centre business district, which resulted in 10 homicides and 13 victims of attempted homicide. 

Toronto was also impacted by a deadly shooting on Danforth Avenue in the city’s Greektown, leaving 2 dead and 13 victims of attempted homicide.  In Saskatchewan, there was a devastating motor vehicle accident involving the Humboldt Broncos, a junior ice hockey team, which resulted in 16 deaths and 13 victims of serious injuries.

The legalization of cannabis and the various amendments to the Criminal Code hrelating to impaired driving, were two significant legislative changes in 2018 that impacted the crime rate statistics in Canada.  Both of these legislative amendments introduced new types of offences. 

The severity of crime, also known as the Crime Severity Index (a measure of the severity of police-reported crime), has also increased by two per cent in 2018.  However, both the crime rate and the Crime Severity Index were down 17 per cent compared to the rates in 2008.

The increase in the severity of crime from 2017 to 2018 was in relation to higher rates of fraud, shoplifting and other thefts.

SEXUAL ASSAULT STATISTICS

Statistics Canada found that for the second year in a row the rate of sexual assaults were found to have significantly increased from 2017 to 2018 in Canada.  There were more than 28,700 police-reported sexual assaults, resulting in an increase of 15% in 2018, following an increase of 13% in 2017.

Sexual assaults were found to represent 7% of all violent crimes in 2018.

The report written by Statistics Canada indicates that the rate of sexual assault reported is “likely an underestimation of the true extent of sexual assault in Canada, as these type of offences often go unreported to police”.

HOMICIDE RATES

Homicide rates in Canada declined by four per cent in 2018, reversing a trend over the last few years of increasing rates of homicide.  According to Statistics Canada, large decreases in homicides in Alberta and British Columbia were reported, while Ontario homicides were found to have substantially increased.  The increased numbers in Ontario were largely attributed to three significant incidents that resulted in 20 homicides and 26 attempted murders (this included the victims of the serial homicides that were identified in 2018).

Toronto was found to have experienced a substantial increase in homicides and the city itself was found to be experiencing its highest crime rate since 1991.  There were 142 reported homicides in Toronto in 2018 (49 more than in 2017). 

According to the data, there were 157 gang-related homicides, which made up 25% of all homicides in Canada in 2018.  This number had decreased by 5% from 2017 following three years of increases. 

FRAUD RATES

Cases of police-reported fraud was found to have increased for the seventh year in a row.  There was a 12% increase between 2017 and 2018, and a 46% increase from 10 years ago. 

Fraud can be defined as any form of dishonest or deceptive behaviour that is intended to establish a risk or loss.  Some define it as “theft by lies”.  A few examples include mortgage fraud, identify theft, forgery, computer crimes, tax fraud and embezzlement.

In 2018, there were over 129,400 cases of fraud reported by police.  Police services report that increases of fraud may be the result of increased access for reporting fraud online.  For example, online or telephone scans, such as the “Canada Revenue Agency” scam and pre-paid gift card scams.

VIOLENT FIREARM OFFENCES

There are a number of Criminal Code offences that involve the use of firearms, including homicide, robbery, assault, sexual assault, discharging a firearm with intent and pointing a firearm. 

According to the research by Statistics Canada, there were 7,477 violent crimes that involved the use of a firearm in 2018.  This was a 5% decrease from 2017, a departure from four years of increases in these types of offences.

The crime severity index is a measure of the severity of police-reported crime, with offences weighted and those more serious given more weight.  A region’s crime severity index is calculated by adding up the weighted offences and dividing it by the population to end up with a score that’s standardized to 100. 

At Affleck & Barrison LLP we are prepared to defend your rights, no matter what the charges are.  We have extensive experience in defending clients in a variety of criminal law matters.  If you need representation or have questions about your legal rights, please contact our firm online or at 905-404-1947.

Sentencing Hearing Delayed for Man Who Killed His Mother While in ‘Cannabis-Induced Psychosis’

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Jason Dickout pleaded guilty to manslaughter last November.  His sentencing hearing was to begin in early September, but has been postponed to early next year pending the completion of a forensic assessment.  Dickout has remained in custody for almost a year since entering his guilty plea.

According to Dickout’s defence lawyer, psychological assessments completed shortly after his client’s arrest indicated underlying mental health issues and therefore the defence was willing to wait for a complete forensic assessment.  Due to a clerical error, the assessment will not be completed until the end of the year. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

In April 2017, Dickout spent the Easter weekend with his parents in northeast Edmonton.  After his father left for work and his mother went grocery shopping on Monday evening, Dickout “smoked two inhalations of dried marijuana” with his sister, Ashley.

Dickout began almost immediately “exhibiting signs of erratic and anxious behaviour, making other animalistic noises and talking nonsensically”.  Hoping to calm her brother down, Ashley gave him some prescribed cannabis oil, which he had never consumed in the past. 

Two hours later, Ashely called 911 to report that her brother was screaming and repeatedly stabbing their mother in the neck with a six-inch knife.

Police arrived to find Dickout naked from the waist down with blood on his face, t-shirt and his bare feet.  A knife covered in blood and a pair of men’s pyjama bottoms lay on the floor beside Dickout’s mother, Kathy Dickout.  Dickout was found behaving erratically and alternating between screams and hysterical laughing.  He said, “this was all for a laugh”.

Kathy Dickout died as a result of knife wounds, which had severed her jugular vein and carotid artery.

EMTs had to sedate Dickout and he was taken to hospital before he was taken into police custody and arrested.  He told officers, “I killed my mom.  She was so beautiful.  She was always thinking of me.  My mom deserves to live.”

Two doctors examined Dickout at Alberta Hospital and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with the symptoms, with the symptoms abating within  a couple of days”. 

Two doctors examined Dickout and determined that he “experienced acute cannabis-induced psychosis, which was both self-induced and transient with other symptoms, with the symptoms abating within a couple of days”.

WHAT IS CANNABIS-INDUCED PSYCHOSIS?

Cannabis-induced psychosis is a possible side effect of cannabis consumption after recreational or chronic use of the drug.  Symptoms can include anxiety, illusions, visual and auditory hallucinations, impaired thinking, paranoia, an inability to focus, loss of touch with reality, disassociation, loss of motivation, disorganized thoughts, suspiciousness, grandiosity, catatonia, agitation and delusions.

Psychosis triggered by the use of cannabis typically begins suddenly and ceases soon after the psychoactive substances in the drug have left the body.  In some cases, there may be an underlying mental illness present that makes it more likely for the drug to cause psychotic symptoms. 

Research has proven that cannabis may cause a psychosis-like state in those that were already at high risk for psychotic disorders.  There may also be a genetic predisposition to cannabis-induced psychosis.  Researchers have found a gene called catechol-O-methyltransferase, which could make individuals more vulnerable to negative side effects of cannabis consumption.

The use of cannabis may also adversely affect medication compliance in those that are using prescription medication to treat psychotic illnesses. 

Studies have also proven that cannabis use in adolescence can be a factor that worsens the symptoms of serious psychotic mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

Most individuals who experience cannabis-induced psychosis are not dangerous.  However, there is a possibility that an individual who has lost touch with reality will engage in risky or paranoid behaviours.  They may also suffer from delusions of grandiosity which can lead to dangerous behaviours, such as reckless driving or jumping from a hazardous height. 

STUDY LINKS VAPED THC TO “DAMPENED” BRAIN ACTIVITY

New research from the University of Guelph found that rats exposed to a single dose of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC (the vapourized psychoactive component of marijuana), experienced dampened brain activity lasting one week, similar to those suffering from schizophrenia and cannabis-induced psychosis.

The research team surgically implanted electrodes into the brains of eight healthy rats that had never been exposed to THC.  In a sealed rat chamber, the rats became exposed to pure vapourized THC or a saline solution.  The rats’ brain activity was then monitored. 

Lead author and assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Guelph, Jibran Khokhar stated:

We found across all the regions [of the brain] the single exposure of THC changed the individual activities of these brain regions, but also altered how these regions communicate, or jive, with one another. 

Vaporized cannabis is gaining popularity and as more concentrates come on the market, we see an increase in wax and shatter – high concentrate forms of THC – and will probably be vapourized with these vape pens.

We will continue to follow Jason Dickout’s case and will provide updates in this blog when more information becomes available.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Conviction Changed from First to Second-Degree for Man Who Planned to Kill his Ex

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that a Toronto man who planned to kill his estranged wife, but killed her uncle instead, should not be convicted of first-degree murder as the uncle was not the intended target.

At his trial, Willy Ching (“Ching”) was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder. The appeal court dismissed his conviction and substituted a conviction for second-degree murder. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Ching has a history of mental illness and attempted suicide.  He had been on medication for depression, which was changed in October, 2009.  He was also prescribed sleeping pills and had attempted to overdose on them and had to be hospitalized for three days.

The marriage of Ching and Maria Ching dissolved on September 2, 2009 at which time Ms. Ching moved out of her home and went to live with her uncle Ernesto Agsaulio (“Agsaulio”).  Ching was unhappy with the end of his marriage and repeatedly tried to be in contact with Ms. Ching.

On October 25, 2009, Ching rented a car and drove to Agsaulio’s home to see Ms. Ching.  Ching’s daughters became aware that he was going to see Ms. Ching and called her to warn her.  She proceeded to call Ching and told him to go home.  He asked her to come outside so they could talk, and she refused.  She then advised Agsaulio that Ching was coming over. 

Ching rang the doorbell and Agsaulio opened the door, but refused to allow him to see Ms. Ching.  The two men spoke for a few minutes, then Ching pulled out a knife and hatchet that he had brought with him and began slashing at Agsaulio.  Agsaulio, his son and some neighbours managed to subdue Ching.

The police arrived and arrested Ching.  He gave a statement and stated that he only wanted to talk to his wife, he did not try to kill anyone, and repeatedly stated that the judge should give him the death sentence.

Later, the police informed Ching that Agsaulio had died and he would be charged with first-degree murder.  Ching went to use the washroom, began running toward the stairwell and attempted to fling himself headfirst over the railing.  A police officer grabbed his waistband and pulled him back.

Ching gave a second statement to the police the next day stating that he brought the weapons with him not to hurt anyone, only to threaten to hurt himself so that his wife would come back to him. 

THE APPEAL

Ching appealed his conviction to the Ontario Court of Appeal arguing that several errors were made in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury. 

The trial judge instructed the jury that if it concluded that Ching had planned and deliberated the murder of his estranged wife, this could change the murder of Agsaulio from second to first-degree murder as it was committed in the course of carrying out his plan to murder Ms. Ching.

A murder is considered first-degree murder when it is planned and deliberate.  The issue, in this case, is whether Ching could be found guilty of first-degree murder when the jury found that he had planned to kill his wife, but ended up taking the life of another person.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial judge’s instruction to the jury regarding the charge of first-degree murder was incorrect.  The appeal court wrote:

A finding that the appellant had planned and deliberated the murder of Ms. Ching and that Mr. Agsaulio’s murder was committed while carrying out that plan does not satisfy the statutory requirement for the first-degree murder. ..

There is a sound policy reason for concluding that an accused who intentionally kills person B when in the course of carrying out the planned and deliberate murder of person A will be guilty of second-degree murder, whereas an accused who accidentally or mistakenly kills person B when person A was the target will be convicted of first-degree murder. … This result reflects the fact that in the first case the actual killing may well have been impulsive while in the second, it was the result of a planned and deliberate act.

The appeal court rejected Ching’s arguments that the trial judge erred in his instructions to the jury regarding Ching’s attempt to jump over a staircase upon hearing about Agsaulio’s death, and instructions regarding conflicting statements made by Ching in his testimony and police interviews.

The appeal court dismissed Ching’s conviction for first-degree murder and substituted a conviction for second-degree murder. 

The offence of second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence, with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

If you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Life in Prison for Man Who Murdered His Pregnant Wife

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Nicholas Baig (“Baig”) has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his pregnant wife, Arianna Goberdhan (“Goberdhan”) (27 years old). 

Goberdhan’s family and friends are outraged that Baig was charged and sentenced for the murder of one person, not two.  Under Canadian law, Goberdhan’s unborn child is not considered a person and is therefore not the victim of a crime.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Goberdhan and Baig were married in November, 2016 and lived for a period of time with his parents in Pickering.  Goberdhan moved back into her parent’s home in January, 2017 as their relationship had deteriorated.

During the sentencing hearing, the court heard evidence of “vile” texts from Baig to his wife and was made aware that the police had been called on a few occasions.  In fact, a week before the murder, the police were called when Baig came to the Goberdhan’s home and broke down a door when he was refused entry.

On April 7, 2017, Goberdhan left her parent’s home in Ajax at 6:30 p.m. and drove to see Baig in Pickering.  Goberdhan called 911 at 9:42 p.m. that evening.  Although she did not speak to the operator, Goberdhan was overheard pleading with Baig to let her go home.  The 911 operator called her back when the call ended and she confirmed that she needed the police.  Security cameras recorded Baig leaving the residence at 9:44 p.m., and driving off in Goberdhan’s vehicle.

When police arrived on scene, they found Goberdhan deceased, with a large knife beside her body.  She was nine months pregnant at the time.  It was determined that Baig had stabbed Goberdhan 17 times.  Baig was arrested the following day and has remained in custody since his arrest.

Baig pleaded guilty to the second degree murder of Goberdhan. 

Given his guilty plea to second-degree murder, Baig faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison.  However, it was up to the judge to decide when he would be eligible to apply for parole.  The minimum period of parole ineligibility for the offence is 10 years. 

The Crown prosecutor recommended parole ineligibility for a term of 20 years given the “reprehensible nature of Baig’s offence”.  Prosecutor George Hendry stated in his submissions to the court:

In making this submission the Crown is recognizing this is above the sentencing range for domestic homicides.  The nature and circumstances surrounding the commission of this offence elevate that range.

On the other hand, Baig’s lawyer argued for a 12 to 15 year term for parole eligibility.

Superior Court Justice Jocelyn Speyer sentenced Baig to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 17 years.

FETAL HOMICIDE AND THE LAW

Under the Criminal Code (section 223(1)), a fetus becomes a human being when it has “completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother”.   

Given this definition, an unborn child cannot be the victim of a homicide and has no legal recourse.  In order to be charged with the murder of an infant, the child has to be born alive first, and then die.  Therefore, Baig was not charged or prosecuted for the death of his unborn daughter, who was to be named Asaara.

In accordance with the law, Justice Speyer sentenced Baig for the murder of Goberdhan only.  Goberdhan’s friends and family were not satisfied with the court’s decision on sentencing Baig.  They filled the courtroom and wore shirts with Goberhan’s image and the name of a new campaign entitled the “Phenomenal Women Project” aimed to establish new law that holds those who kill pregnant women accountable for the deaths of both the mother and child.

Goberdhan’s parents are petitioning for legislative changes.  They call the petition “Arianna’s Law”.  They are asking the government to “pass legislation that recognizes that, when an assailant in a commission of a crime attacks a pregnant woman and injures or kills her pre-born child, then the assailant may be charged with an offence on behalf of the pre-born child.”

Laws of this nature have been proposed in the past, but have all failed.  The concern is that these types of laws will pave the way to criminalize abortion.

The Goberdhans argue that the “law has to be defined in such a way that it’s a violence against women crime.  It has nothing to do …with pro-life or pro-choice.  It’s specific to violence.”  The proposed law is intended to deter abusive partners from harming pregnant women. 

We will continue to follow any updates in the law regarding the murder of an unborn child in Canada and will report on developments in this blog.

If you have any questions regarding charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.