Toronto Sun

March 4, 2001

Abused spouse freed

Shot husband in 'automaton' state

By NATHALIE TREPANIER -- Sun Media
Toronto Sun

OTTAWA -- A jury told Rita Graveline yesterday she wasn't to blame for killing her husband.

Graveline, who was on trial for the second-degree murder of Michael Graveline, was acquitted in Hull court yesterday.

"You are a free woman," a visibly moved Justice Martin Bedard said.

She greeted the news with a stream of tears and repeatedly thanked her lawyer.

"I have no legs," she said in a trembling voice. "They're like Jell-O.

"I feel relief. I didn't know what to expect. I'm just glad. Now I can just do things with my family," said the grandmother, 52.

Asked what she considered the most difficult part of the trial, Graveline answered it was having to remember the night she killed her husband and the years of abuse.

A battered wife for more than 30 years, Graveline shot her husband while he slept Aug. 10, 1999.

Her lawyer never contested the shooting but said his client acted in a state of altered consciousness, called non-insane automatism, resulting from years of abuse, depression and alcohol consumed that same night. At no time during the night, the court heard, did Graveline fear for her own life.

Graveline testifed she did not remember the actual shooting. She remembered hearing a bang, holding the gun and then running downstairs to call 911.

Pushed by the Crown, Graveline admitted she did remember the shooting and hearing a noise.

Judge Bedard told the jury they could acquit for two reasons -- non-insane automatism or self-defence.

Crown attorney Martin Cote said the judge's introduction of self-defence as a reason for acquittal could be grounds for an appeal.

UNINTENTIONAL

He said both defences contradict each other. Automatism is an unintentional, uncharacteristic act, he added, and self-defence is intentional.

Cote said he didn't know if an appeal would be launched, adding he didn't think the verdict would have an impact on similar cases.

"I don't think that the fact that (Graveline) was acquitted will send a message to the population," he said. "Each case is decided on its own merit."

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.