Canada’s Supreme Court Supports New Trial for Thomas Chan

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled Friday morning rejecting an appeal from the Crown, paving the way for a new trial for Thomas Chan of Peterborough, where he can use the “automatism” defense.

On December 28, 2015, Chan consumed magic mushrooms before having hallucinations and his father, Dr. Andrew Chan, stabbed to death in Peterborough and the life partner of Dr. Chan, Lynn Witteveen, seriously injured.

Chan was convicted of manslaughter and aggravated assault at a trial in Peterborough after the court rejected the defense’s argument that the magic mushrooms prompted him to do so.

In March 2019, Chan was sentenced to five years in prison for his father’s stabbing and the near-fatal attack on Witteveen.

However, the Ontario Court of Appeals overturned Chan’s manslaughter and aggravated assault convictions and granted him a new trial after discovering that Section 33.1 of the Criminal Code unconstitutionally deprived Chan of access to the non-mental disorder automatism defense.

Following the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision, the prosecutor sought permission to appeal to Canada’s highest court, which was subsequently granted in December 2020.

Chan was initially charged with first degree murder and attempted murder. However, at the conclusion of his first trial, the Crown admitted that it could not prove Chan’s particular intention or purpose to kill his father and attempt to kill Witteveen.

The Crown had also appealed the acquittal of a Whitby man David Sullivan who had previously been found guilty of assaulting his elderly mother with a knife after overdosing on a prescription drug.

Friday’s ruling was in both cases. Judge Nicholas Kasirer wrote the ruling and was unanimously supported by the other eight judges of the Supreme Court of Canada.


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