A psychiatrist says it's possible Christopher Garnier was suffering from a condition in which he was not fully aware of his actions immediately following the death of off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell.
Dr. Stephen John Hucker was back on the stand Thursday at the murder trial for Garnier in Halifax discussing the legal defence of automatism, a state of impaired consciousness with no voluntary action. It can result from disorders such as schizophrenia, brain injury, or from going through a traumatic event. Garnier had automatism, said Hucker.
Garnier has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body. Campbell’s body was found in September 2015 in Halifax. She worked as a police officer in Truro and grew up in Stellarton.
Hucker also said that people who suffer emotional trauma cannot remember parts of the event that happened. He noted that Garnier's lack of sleep before his police interview "could aggravate it," saying that he had acute stress disorder. He said that people with this condition cannot gather thoughts, and feel confused and dismayed.
"They basically feel stunned," said Hucker.
Hucker said that police interviewing Garnier used a suggestive style of questioning, for example, by saying there was blood everywhere and a struggle when Catherine Campbell died.
"It's certainly possible that someone suffering from acute stress disorder can be more suggestible," Hucker said.
Under cross-examination by Crown attorney Carla Ball, Hucker acknowledged he never mentioned automatism in his report and he agreed that it is a rare psychological condition.
Ball argued that Garnier's alleged actions in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015, were in fact logical: hiding Campbell's body in a bin, removing bloodied clothing and throwing the necklace on a roof. Dragging the bin through the streets at 5 a.m. when they are not lit up was also logical, as was dumping the body in brush with a box on top, said Ball. She said that evidence was hidden in six different places.
The cross-examination discussed auto-erotic (self-choking) and erotic asphyxiation (done with a partner). If a person dies, there are no suicide notes at the scene, Hucker testified. Pornography relating to choking and other sex aids are often found with the body and the body is often naked.
Next defence witness was Truro Police officer Justin Russell who was subpoenaed to testify. He graduated with Campbell and both trained and worked with her. He stated that training included how to break and release oneself from chokeholds and self-defence.
The trial resumes Friday at 9:30 a.m. in Halifax.
WITH CP FILES