New & Notable: Voluntariness and Right to Counsel

Robert Reeves stabbed his father. His mother fled the house and called police. Reeves stayed in the house with his father. Shortly thereafter police arrived. Sgt Wadelius - who had been trained in hostage/crisis negotiations began to call the residence attempting to make contact with Reeves. On the third call Reeves answered.
At the time of the third call the police did not know (1) Reeve's mental and physical state; (2) if the victim was alive or the extent of his injuries; and (3) what other weapons may be in the house.
Very shortly into the conversation Sgt Wadelius elicited from Reeves that "...Reeves believed that Brian Baker [his father] was dead" [para 6]. Reeves continued to provide more information to Sgt Waledius.
At trial the Crown indicated its intention to rely upon the statement of Reeves during this conversation. The defence sought to bar the Crown from doing so as the statement was not voluntary and was obtained in violation of section 10(b).
Koenigsberg J ruled on the application: 2011 BCSC 1513.
With respect to voluntariness, the court first considered the argument that the record was not complete. While most of the conversation was recorded, the first few minutes were not. The court noted, however, that concerns flowing from this were attenuated by the following facts: (i) Sgt Wadelius repeated back what Reeves was saying; and (ii) Sgt Wadelius took notes. Koenigsberg J also considered the argument that Reeves did not have an operating mind and concluded:
(…) a careful review of the whole of the statement which took place over an hour and a half must be undertaken. A review of the content of the whole call indicates that Mr. Reeves was oriented in time and place and relationships. He knew he was talking to an RCMP officer. Mr. Reeves appeared to be intelligent and very self-absorbed. He also appeared to suffer from paranoid-type delusions. He seemed to be possessed of a number of delusions or delusional explanations for various and severe aches and pains involving burning sensations in his feet and other parts of his body, severe headaches, arthritis and gastrointestinal problems. He had grievances against the government and some minor ones against his step-father who he had allegedly stabbed to death. I find he did say the words -- I killed Brian -- within a minute or two of the beginning of the telephone communications. However, unlike either Whittle or Partridge, his delusional thinking had no causal relation to either why he may have killed his step-father, nor why he was speaking openly to the police officer [para 23]; [emphasis added].
Koenigsberg J concluded that the statement was voluntary.
With respect to the Charter issue, found that there had been a violation of section 10(b) at the point when Reeves would have felt psychologically restrained [para 56]. Despite the violation, however, Koenigsberg J held that the statement could be admitted under section 24(2):
The Crown had a very strong case both circumstantial and direct evidence pointing to Mr. Reeves as the person who stabbed Brian Baker. On the other hand, as set out in the courts analysis of the "Operating Mind" issue on this voir dire, on balance, both the initial relatively calm and rational incriminating expressions of Mr. Reeves that he killed Brian coupled with his many statements indicating he was not in the grip of delusions nor fear of the police, militate in favor of the reliability of the statement.
In addition, there is one other factor this Court considers particularly in looking at the "truth seeking" goal of a criminal trial, this statement, given Mr. Reeves "memory loss" is the only evidence of his state of mind at the time of the stabbing and shortly after.
This evidence was of some importance in relation to such issues as "intent" and whether Mr. Reeves was "criminally responsible" for this act.
Thus, the circumstances dictating that Mr. Reeves should not be given his Charter rights and warning during the negotiation to get him out of the house were not of the police making. Further, Sgt. Wadelius' conduct in how he spoke and what he said to Mr. Reeves remained non-manipulative and fair.
The reliability of the statement is unaffected by police conduct, and its importance in any evaluation of central issues in the trial, all taken together create that unusual set of circumstances where the presumption of inadmissibility of a statement taken in breach of s. 10(b) rights is overborn [paras 76-81].
DG Mack