Alberta court strikes down self-induced intoxication defence in case of naked magic mushroom attack, Matthew Brown must now go back before the trial judge to be sentenced by Meghan Grant, CBC News, Jul 29, 2021
The Alberta court of Appeal has overturned the acquittal of a former Calgary university student who attacked a woman after breaking into her home while naked and high on mushrooms.
Matthew Brown is now guilty of aggravated assault against Janet Hamnett.
At a pre-trial hearing in 2019, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Willie deWit struck down legislation that prohibits accused people from using the defence of self-induced intoxication automatism in crimes of violence.
That allowed the defence to be used at trial, after which, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Michele Hollins acquitted, finding Brown did not have the requisite intent to be found guilty.
The decision caught the attention of the legal community as it was believed to be the only one in Canada involving a successful defence of extreme intoxication while on magic mushrooms.
‘Who is to be held responsible?’
But on Thursday, the province’s top court ruled that Brown must be held accountable for his choice to consume alcohol and magic mushrooms.
“[Parliament] has chosen to hold people criminally responsible for violence arising from self-induced intoxication in a particular context and to deter people from such intoxication because it might lead to violence,” wrote Justice Ritu Khullar in her decision.
The panel of three judges ruled Brown must bear the consequences of taking illegal drugs “in reckless disregard of the possible risks.”
“Who is to be held responsible for this? The respondent essentially says ‘no one,'” wrote Justice Frans Slatter.
“But is it not obvious that it is the respondent who is responsible because he is the one who voluntarily consumed the magic mushrooms, in the face of the objective risk of the effect they could have on him? His victim should not be the only one who suffers the consequences of his voluntary choices.”
The case will go back before Hollins for sentencing. I think it’s wrong for that judge to be anywhere near this case, even for sentencing. I can see the sentence now:
Three days in jail, rest taken care of by Brown’s deep repeated remorse, that poor poor young man, from good white family, such a primo hockey capitain serving the public interest. I will give the defense everything they ask for, and more. Bla bla. bla.
Victim’s family pleased
Hamnett’s daughter Lara Unsworth said the family is pleased with the appeal court’s decision.
“This is a positive outcome for so many people who have been victimized and feel that no one has been held accountable because of this loophole,” wrote Unsworth. “We are so appreciative of the judge’s thoughtful comments surrounding this case, especially around a person having the right to not be attacked in their own home, and that there should be consequences for bad decision-making.“
Victims deserve to feel heard and that justice has been served.”
Defence lawyer Sean Fagan said he will appeal to the Supreme Court.
“To say that we are disappointed in the result would be a gross understatement,” said Fagan in a written statement.
“Bottom line: I hope to have our appeal heard, and the decision overturned in the Supreme Court of Canada, by October of this year.“
Brown was drunk and high
Brown grew up in Truro, N.S., playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before moving to Calgary to study and captain Mount Royal University’s team.
In January 2018, Brown was a student at MRU, where the victim works as a public relations professor — which police said was a coincidence.
On the night of the attack, Brown was drinking with friends in the southwest community of Springbank Hill, near the victim’s home. Brown had 14 to 18 alcoholic drinks that night.
The friends then began taking magic mushrooms.
Around 3:45 a.m., the group noticed Brown was standing at the front door, naked. Then he ran out the door.
Minutes later, Hamnett — who lived alone — woke to a loud noise.
Suddenly, Brown was in her bedroom with a broken broom handle and began hitting the professor, who was in her 60s.
Hamnett’s hands took the brunt of the beating as she used them to protect her head while on the floor of her bedroom.
When Brown suddenly stopped and walked out of the home, Hamnett, who’d been bloodied, ran to a neighbour’s for help.
Brown was eventually arrested at another neighbour’s home.
Hamnett suffered broken bones in one of her hands.
During the trial, a doctor who specializes in forensic toxicology said Brown had likely experienced an episode of delirium where he was unaware of his surroundings and may have suffered delusions and hallucinations.
Brown has always been remorseful and has apologized twice, in court and outside the courthouse after his acquittal.
A few of the comments:
- T.Rosco Duncan:
in Alberta you say? oh.
- Gaelin Forsythe:
I recall this case clearly because it was horrifying . It was also bizarre and appalling to have found him not responsible because of the choices he made..
I am so happy for this lady to finally have a clear over turning.
but seriously???? What a waste of resources to ‘appeal’……Just don’t
- Alan Douglas:
It isn’t clear, but sounds like the decision of the Court of Appeal was unanimous. That means there is no right of appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and Brown will have to apply for leave to appeal, not just go directly to an appeal. The SCC denies most applications for leave. It MIGHT hear this case because there is a matter of validity of a law involved. That’s about the only reason the SCC will hear a case unless there is automatic right of appeal.
Just like a drunk driver hitting and injuring or killing someone. His choice, his actions, give him 5 years jail and 5 probation. Next time his choice could kill.
How would we charge mushrooms with a crime. Unreal this worked
Really? Taking it to the Supreme Court of Canada with the hope of getting a decision that will then allow every citizen in the country to use the magic mushroom excuse? Who would ever be in favour of this besides a defence lawyer? I sincerely hope the SCC turns it down.
Justice Willie deWit is clearly a bit daft. The reasoning used was akin to suggesting the bullet killed a person and is responsible for the death not the trigger puller. I’m glad, as are many in the legal community, that the SC fixed this ridiculous decision.
Choices have consequences. Finding nobody responsible for this was bizarre to begin with.
Appeal Court convicts Calgary man who attacked woman while he was high on mushrooms by The Canadian Press, July 29, 2021, The Globe and Mail
Alberta’s Appeal Court has ordered a Calgary man be convicted for breaking into a professor’s house and assaulting her while he was naked and high on magic mushrooms.
Last year, a judge found Matthew Brown not guilty of two counts of break and enter – one with the intent to commit aggravated assault and the other to commit mischief.
Court heard that the former captain of the men’s hockey team at Mount Royal University in Calgary ate magic mushrooms at a house party in January 2018.
He then broke into the home of professor Janet Hamnett and hit her with a broom handle.
The original trial judge had ruled that evidence supported the defence argument that Brown had experienced automatism and was not in control of his actions.
The Appeal Court reversed the decision by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Michele Hollins and concluded Brown is guilty of aggravated assault and is to return to court for sentencing.
One of the court’s three judges, Justice Ritu Khullar, noted that, in 1995, Parliament debated the defence of self-induced intoxication automatism in crimes of violence.
She said Parliament agreed that the voluntary consumption of drugs is reckless behaviour and that people have to be accountable for the unintended consequences of their actions.
“In this case, holding the appellant accountable for his violent attack against Ms. Hamnett is an important step in recognizing Ms. Hamnett’s self-worth and dignity,” Khullar wrote.
“It is demonstrably justifiable to hold persons like the respondent accountable for their decisions to consume substances known to affect human behaviour,” Justice Frans Slatter added.
Refer also to:
Why do Alberta judges use the constitutional rights of men who violently harm others to let them off, while refusing to allow me my Charter right to seek remedy for the oil and gas industry (AER) violating my rights? Is it because I am not a man in a province where misogyny is the rule of law and where the oil and gas industry (AER) is above the law?
As expected, the rapist’s future and “good family” privilege strikes again (systemic?): Judicial industry gives convicted serial rapist Matthew McKnight everything his defence asked for. Disgusting. Horrifying. He’ll likely be out in 2 years or less, free to rape again and again and again. “I’m saddened for the victims of McKnight who also became victims of Justice Sulyma.”