R. v. Stone (1999, 2 S.C.R 290)
Facts: The accused admitted stabbing his wife 47 times but claimed to have it done due to his
wife’s insulting words which led him to an automatistic state, which he stated as a “whooshing”
sensation. After he recovered from the momentary blackout, he found himself holding a six-inch
hunting knife and observed his wife slumping over on the seat. He disposed of the body, cleaned
up and flew to Mexico. Six weeks later, after having this sensation of his throat cut and the
dream he had about the night he murdered his wife—he remembered stabbing his wife twice in
the chest before the blackout—he returned to Canada, spoke to his lawyer and turned himself
into police. He was charged with murder. In his defense, the accused claimed of his condition
throughout the murder: insane automatism, non-insane automatism, lack of intent and also
The Lower court decisions: The trial judge ruled that the defence had laid a proper evidentiary
foundation for insane automatism. As the defendant instructed jury on insane automatism,
intention in relation to second degree murder and provocation, the lower courts found the
accused guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment. The Court of
Appeal upheld accused’s conviction and dismissed the Crown’s appeal of the sentence. As a
result, both the accused and the Crown appealed to the Supreme Court.
Legal Issues: Three issues were brought up while the Court was reviewing the case.
1. Whether the “defence” of sane automatism should have been left to the jury: Yes. Once the
trial judge exercised his gatekeeper function to screen invaluable and fabricated claims, it
was for the jury to make up its mind on the credibility of the plea of automatism. It is to be
expected that the jury will subject the evidence for involuntariness to appropriate inspection. The jury is as important as anyone in the justice system to maintain its credibility.
Furthermore, that the task of weighing the credibility of such defences was restricted by
Parliament to the jury. Thus, the Court should respect the distribution of that responsibility.
2. Whether the defence psychiatric report was properly ordered disclosed to the Crown
The defence waived the privilege in its psychiatrist’s report at the opening of its case when
counsel disclosed the elements in that report favourable to his client. A witness is offering an
opinion for the assistance of the court rather than advising pr