Tuesday 29 September 1998
Woman's mind shut off during killing, court told
Mental 'cut-off valve' had been turned on, psychiatrist testifiesPeter Hum
The Ottawa Citizen
When Lilian Getkate shot her sleeping husband to death, she was a depressed, traumatized woman acting as if part of her mind had been shut off, a psychiatrist told a jury yesterday.
Mrs. Getkate, 38, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in connection with the Dec. 8, 1995 killing of her husband Maury, an RCMP psychologist.
Although Mrs. Getkate has admitted to turning her husband's Ruger Mini-14 rifle on him in their Falaise Road home while he slept, the defence contends that she had been so abused -- physically, emotionally and sexually -- by Mr. Getkate that she was suffering from "battered-spouse syndrome" when she killed him.
Testifying for the defence, Toronto forensic psychiatrist Dr. Graham Glancy said that for two years before she killed her husband, Mrs. Getkate suffered from chronic depression. She also suffered from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder before the killing, Dr. Glancy said.
In psychiatry's diagnostic literature, there is no mention of "battered spouse syndrome," because the books deal with symptoms rather than causes, Dr. Glancy said. However, the symptoms of chronic depression and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder overlap with the symptoms of "battered-spouse syndrome" as other experts have defined it, he said.
Assistant Crown attorney Julianne Parfett suggested yesterday that the syndrome is "more a sociological phenomenon than a psychiatric diagnosis."
Dr. Glancy, who interviewed Mrs. Getkate about six months after the killing, said that when she shot her husband, it was as if a mental "cut-off valve" had been turned on.
"It compromised her ability to form intentions at the time, make rational decisions," Dr. Glancy said.
Mrs. Getkate has testified that in the 16 years she was with her husband, he became increasingly aggressive and abusive. She said that he often insulted her, grabbed her, tripped her, or dragged her upstairs by the hair. He would threaten to kill her while shoving her face into their mattress or grasping her throat.
"At the time (of the shooting), she perceived she would eventually be killed by this man, that (their daughter) Dara would be sexually assaulted by this man," Dr. Glancy said.
"Her belief would be that she had no protection left," he continued. "This was the only course available to her. The anxiety was so high that part of her consciousness split off to do it."
Dr. Glancy said that Mrs. Getkate has had personality testing since she killed her husband, and that the tests have found no indication of anti-social personality or psychopathic disorders. Instead, the tests found that Mrs. Getkate was anxious, self-critical and dependent.
Mrs. Getkate showed remorse after killing her husband, the court heard. "She used the expression, 'They should just lock me up and throw away the key,' " Dr. Glancy said.
Mr. Getkate was well-regarded by friends and co-workers, the court has heard. Dr. Glancy said that it is possible for some abusive "family-type aggressors," to "appear normal to outside world.
"To all intents and purposes, he would be a regular, normal sort of guy," Dr. Glancy said.
The court has heard that Mrs. Getkate did not tell friends or relatives about being abused before she killed her husband.
Dr. Glancy said that many abused women will not disclose their plight. "They won't break the silence and tell people," he said, because of shame or even "traumatic bonding" with their abusers.
Under cross-examination, Dr. Glancy said that the bulk of the information upon which he based his assessments came from Mrs. Getkate, with very little substantiation from other people.
The jury heard that Dara Getkate did speak to police after her father was killed. She spoke of loud arguments taking place between her parents, but not of physical confrontations, the court heard.
The trial continues today. The 10-woman, two-man jury is expected to begin deliberating Thursday. Justice James Chadwick has told the jury that there is insufficient evidence of planning and deliberation to support a first-degree murder conviction. Jurors may, however, deliberate about the lesser charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.