Bleta v. R., [1964] S.C.R. 561 (1964)

Extract


Bleta v. R., [1964] S.C.R. 561 (1964)

Supreme Court of Canada

Bleta v. R., [1964] S.C.R. 561

Date: 1964-06-11

Karafil Bleta (Plaintiff) Appellant;

and

Her Majesty The Queen (Defendant) Respondent.

1964: April 30; 1964: May 1; 1964: June 11.

Present: Cartwright, Fauteux, Martland, Judson, Ritchie, Hall and Spence JJ.

ON APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEAL FOR ONTARIO.

Criminal law-Non-capital murder-Expert evidence-Defence of automation following brain injury-Psychiatrist expressing opinion based on evidence of other witnesses-Whether evidence of psychiatrist admissible.

The appellant was acquitted on a charge of non-capital murder. In the course of a fight with the victim, the appellant was knocked down or fell down and his head struck the pavement. The victim had started to walk away when the appellant, having regained his feet, followed him and stabbed him fatally with a knife. Some of the witnesses observed that when the appellant got up he staggered and appeared to be dazed. The appellant advanced the defence of automation. This defence was supported by a psychiatrist who had not examined the appellant until more than three months after the incident but who had attended his trial and listened to all the evidence as to the appellant's head injury and his behaviour immediately after receiving it. The expert was not asked hypothetical questions but on the contrary was invited to express his opinion based on the evidence which he had heard. The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial on the ground that this evidence was inadmissible and should not have been accepted by the trial judge even though no objections were taken by the Crown at the trial. The accused appealed to this Court.

Held: The appeal should be allowed and the verdict of acquittal restored.

Provided that the questions are so phrased as to make clear what the evidence is on which an expert is being asked to found his conclusion, the failure to put such questions in hypothetical form does not of itself make the answers inadmissible. It is within the competence of the trial judge in any case to insist upon the foundation for the expert's opinion being laid by way of hypothetical question if he feels this to be the best way in which he can be assured of the matter being fully understood by the jury, but this does not mean that the judge is necessarily precluded from permitting the expert's answer to go before the jury if the nature and foundation of his opinion ha...

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