An alcoholic's claim that he was too drunk to know what he was doing when he stabbed his girlfriend to death was speedily rejected by a Toronto jury yesterday.
Martin Jensen, 36, had been granted the rare opportunity to place a defence of intoxication before an Ontario Superior Court jury when Mr. Justice Edward Then ruled last week that a Criminal Code ban on this defence is unconstitutional.
Defence lawyer Greg Lafontaine argued that his client was "no more than a zombie, a sleepwalker, a robot" after consuming the equivalent of 35 beers during the afternoon and evening of Aug. 29, 1998.
But jurors did not buy it. After deliberating for just five hours, they declared Mr. Jensen guilty of second-degree murder in the death of 38-year-old Lynda Vickery, who was stabbed 16 times as she lay in her bed.
However, Judge Then's ruling on the intoxication defence will embolden defence lawyers to try using it for other clients accused of committing violent crimes while drunk or under the influence of drugs, Crown attorney Phil Enright said outside court yesterday.
The federal government barred this defence in crimes of violence in 1995, thumbing its nose at a Supreme Court of Canada ruling a year earlier that said extreme intoxication was a viable defence in some circumstances.
Judge Then said the amendment to section 33.1 of the Criminal Code violated the principles of fundamental justice and an accused person's right to a fair trial.
In four court rulings since section 33.1 became law, two judges have declared the section unconstitutional and two have had no problem with it, Mr. Enright said.
Judge Then is the highest ranking judge to have pronounced on the issue.
Mr. Enright's view, which was apparently shared by the jury, is that "intentional killing is murder regardless of whether it is committed by a sober, calculating individual or by . . . a drunk."