Current & Curious: Ants in his pants?

In the summer of 2007 Clinton Williams was the driver in a serious high-speed single motor vehicle accident. His three passengers, all friends of his were killed in the crash. Williams suffered serious injuries to his brain and body. In the fall of that same year Williams was arrested and charged with three counts of dangerous driving causing death. Prior to the commencement of his trial in September 2012 Williams sought an order that he was unfit to stand trial: 2012 ONSC 5851.

 

Two expert witnesses testified on behalf of the defence and two testified on behalf of the Crown. Although, all experts agreed that Williams had sustained a significant injury the Crown maintained that Williams failed to discharge his burden that on a balance of probabilities he was unfit; Quigley J of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice agreed:

[I am not] persuaded on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Williams is not fit to stand trial, as that legal standard is understood, in the face of the very strong evidence of performance of Mr. Williams on tests administered by Dr. Swayze and on the evidence adduced by the Crown that is strongly suggestive of malingering. I do not make a specific finding of malingering although there is certainly evidence that could support such a finding. There is no need to do that. It is sufficient for these purposes to indicate that the defence evidence has not persuaded me on this application that Mr. Williams is unfit applying the tests that I am required to apply.

Considering the whole of the evidence, I am satisfied that it is at least as likely as not, if not substantially more likely than not, that Mr. Williams is fit to stand trial. Since I am not persuaded that he is unfit to stand trial, the presumption of fitness in the Code must operate [paras 132-133].

After reaching that conclusion Quigley J commented on the behaviour of Williams throughout the hearing:

Nevertheless, I do wish to make the observation that I was quite certain that Mr. Williams could hear and understood what was being said about him. What caused me to reach this conclusion given my vantage point from the dais, and with Mr. Williams sitting in the body of the courtroom behind defence counsel, was that I watched him. I saw the instances when his head came up even if only briefly in response to something that was said, and I watched as he regularly got up and walked out of the courtroom on a number of occasions at the very moment when the witnesses were saying things that were critical about him. I also acknowledge without apology that I made that observation more than once on the record. In fairness to the defence, I also acknowledged that there were occasions when Mr. Williams got up to walk out, when nothing remarkable was being said by the witnesses. Nonetheless, it was striking to me that there seemed to be more than coincidence with his departure from the courtroom in the numerous instances when a witness started to say things that were critical of him, or repeated the Crown's belief that he is malingering in order to avoid being found fit to stand trial [para 137].

Quigley J noted that this unusual behaviour was something which would need to be addressed during the trial – in order to avoid continual interruptions. However, Quigley J was not prepared to follow the defence expert’s suggestion that Williams could be strapped to a chair so that he would not leave the courtroom when he was required to be in attendance.

 

DGM

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