Kansas Criminal Law

R. v. Stone (1999) SCC

Accused attacked and killed his wife then fled to Mexico after she made a series of “psychologically sadistic” remarks about his sexual prowess.  The automatic accused does not necessarily have to be acting unconsciously but their unconsciousness must be so impaired that they have no control over their actions.  The issue in this case was how to distinguish between insane and non insane automatism when a psychological blow prompts it.  To satisfy the evidentiary burden for automatism, the defense must make an assertion of involuntariness and then call expert psychological witnesses confirming that assertion.

The trial judge must follow a holistic approach to evaluating defining a disease of the mind, which includes:

1.    Were there factors of internal cause?
2.    Does a continuing danger exist?
3.    Policy considerations

The trial judge is to look at the situation on a case by case basis to determine whether a properly instructed jury could find the accused guilty on a balance of the probabilities.


Types of Automatism:

Issue: Was the accused suffering from a disease of the mind?
1.    Insane Automatism – disease of the mind – held not guilty by reason of mental disorder.  Generally hospitalized.
2.    Non Insane Automatism – no disease of mind – simple acquittal


R. v. Parks (1992) SCC

Accused drove  long distance to his in-laws and killed his mother-in-law all while sleepwalking.    The SCC found that the trial judge had not erred in instructing the jury re: the defense of automatism rather than insanity.  La Forest J distinguished sane and non insane automatism.  When the defense of non insane automatism is raised by the accused, the trial judge must determine whether the defense should go to the trier of fact (must be satisfied that evidence supports this defense).  Sleepwalking is not a disease of the mind but may be considered so in certain contexts.  In this case, there was uncontradicted evidence that sleepwalking is not a mental disorder but rather a sleeping disorder for which there is no cure.  Because of the uncontradicted evidence, the SCC focused on medical issues – was it likely to recur (recurrence suggests insanity)? No – did the accused pose a continuing danger to the public? No.  There is no cure for sleepwalking other than good health practices.


Since Stone

An accused who raises the defense of non insane automatism must establish on a balance of the probabilities that they acted in an involuntary manner.  The majority in Stone was concerned that this defense might be faked under traditional law that allows the defense to go to the jury so long as evidence is presented that, if believed, would raise a reasonable doubt about the voluntariness of actions.  The reverse onus regarding the burden on the defense violates 11d but is saved under s.1.


Sleepwalking is not a disease of the mind but it gives rise to the defense of automatism.  Denning in Bratty stated that no act is punishable if done involuntarily – act done by muscles without the control of the mind while suffering from a concussion or sleepwalking.  See also: Parks.



Courts distinguish between voluntary and involuntary (case of the impaired driving from drug from a medication) intoxication.  Extreme intoxication is similar to automatism under CC16.  Under this, the violation to 11d is fine because only the accused can give evidence regarding how much alcohol they consumed and the effect it had on him.  Expert evidence is required to show that the accused was in a state similar to automatism when the crime was committed.  Intoxication (from drugs or alcohol) may be a condition that prevents that the Crown from proving that the accused had the fault element required for a particular offence.  There must be an air of reality to the intoxication defense.


Beard’s Rule: 3 Rules

1.    Intoxication could be grounds for insanity defense of it produces a disease of the mind.
2.    Evidence of drunkenness, which renders accused incapable of forming specific intent essential to constitute the crime should be taken in consideration with the other facts proved in order to determine whether or not he had this intent.
3.    That evidence of drunkenness falling short of a proved incapacity in the accused to form the intent necessary to constitute the crime, and merely establishing that his mind was affected by drink so that he more readily gave way to some violent passion, does not rebut the presumption that a man intends the natural consequences of his acts.

Beard killed a woman in the course of rape.  Shortly after the killing, he was admitted into a trade union where he answered questions intelligibly.  Drunkenness was no defense in this case because the accused was able to form the necessary intent.


What about Beard today?

It would be relevant today because it involved murder (specific intent), not manslaughter (general intent).  Today, the prosecution would have to prove that it was likely that the victim would die.  CC never included provisions re: intoxication as a defense.  Beard has been criticized but the SCC followed them for a long time.  In Canada, Beard has been interpreted as distinguishing between general and specific intent offences.

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