Double murderer jailed for life in WA — (The Mercury)

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The Mercury

October 23, 2013 4:14am

A PERTH man who murdered a couple in an unprovoked attack and left their young son an orphan has been sentenced to life in prison with a 22-year minimum term.

Gary Edmund Brown used a 20cm knife to repeatedly stab Jenni Barrett, 29, and her partner Christopher Stoodley, 36, at a flat in the Perth suburb of Maylands in 2011.

Brown, 49, pleaded not guilty to the crimes and initially tried to implicate others to exonerate himself.

He later admitted to the murders, but claimed he was not of sound mind because he was detoxing from methadone and suffering adverse effects from medication.

But Justice Lindy Jenkins convicted him of murder during a judge-alone trial earlier this year.

In sentencing on Wednesday, Justice Jenkins described the murders as “violent, callous and without justification”.

“You were mentally impaired, but you were not deprived of the capacity to control your actions,” she said.

Justice Jenkins said it was possible Brown would be a further threat to the community upon release.

“Whilst you are still able-bodied, and if you are not medicated, it is likely that you have and will have significant behavioural and mental health issues, which mean that you will be at risk of doing violence to others,” she said.

But Justice Jenkins did note that Brown was remorseful and said his moral culpability was reduced due to his mental impairment, which warranted a lower non-parole period.

Brown was sentenced to at least 22 years in prison before being eligible for parole and the term was backdated to August 2011 when he was arrested.

Outside court, Ms Barrett’s brother, Adam, said he was relieved with the sentence.

 “He got what he deserved and hopefully he doesn’t come back out into society because he doesn’t deserve to be out here,” he said.

Mr Stoodley’s family said it is a tragedy the couple’s five-year-old son, Kyuss, would grow up without his parents.

 

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THE STATE OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA -v- BROWN [No 3] [2013] WASC 349 (19 September 2013) — (Austli)

Issues

9 As the accused admitted that he, alone, had killed Mr Stoodley and Ms Barrett by stabbing them, the State was not required to call any further evidence to prove those facts.

10 By his plea, the accused put in issue his sanity at the time he killed each of the victims. In particular, it is in issue whether at the time he killed each of the victims his mind was disordered by intoxication by drugs or he was in such a state of mental impairment as to deprive him of the capacity to control his actions (the insanity defence).

11 In addition to the matters covered by the accused’s formal admissions, there are a number of important matters which are agreed between the parties. Significantly, it is not in issue that:

(1) the accused was sexually abused as a child;

(2) as a consequence, at the time of the alleged offences, the accused was mentally impaired because he was suffering from decompensated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD);

(3) the accused has an antisocial personality disorder (ASPD);

(4) as a result of his PTSD and ASPD, the accused’s capacity to control his actions at the time of the alleged offences was impaired; and

(5) if (which the State disputes) the accused was suffering from an idiosyncratic adverse reaction to the drug desmethylvenlafaxine (DMVF), that adverse reaction would constitute intoxication caused without intention on his part by drugs for the purpose of the Criminal Code (WA) s 28(1).

12 The parties do not agree that ASPD is a mental illness and thus a mental impairment for the purpose of the Criminal Code s 27. As stated above, they are also not in agreement as to whether the accused was suffering from an idiosyncratic adverse reaction to DMVF at the time of the commission of the alleged offences. It is the accused’s case that a combination of the decompensated PTSD and the adverse reaction to DMVF caused him to suffer hypomania/mania and that this deprived him of the capacity to control his actions at the time of the commission of the alleged offences. The State, as I have said, does not agree that the accused was suffering from the adverse reactions to DMVF but, in any event, it disputes that he lost the capacity to control his actions as a consequence of any form of mental impairment or as a result of his mind being disordered by intoxication caused without intention on his part by drugs…

297 In respect of the presence of DMVF in the accused’s blood, Professor Joyce gave evidence that regardless of whether a patient has taken venlafaxine (brand name Effexor) or DMVF, it is DMVF which is detected in their body. In effect, DMVF is a metabolite of venlafaxine and they are essentially identical in their clinical effects and toxicology.

Has the accused proved on the balance of probabilities that he was in such a state of mental impairment as to deprive him of capacity to control his actions at the time of the killings?

506 The parties agree that the accused was mentally impaired at the time of the killings and that his capacity to control his actions was impaired. The difference between the parties is that the accused says that he was deprived of the capacity to control his actions whereas the State says that his capacity to control his actions was only impaired.

507 The psychiatrists agree that whether the accused was in such a state of mental impairment as to deprive him of the capacity to control his actions at the time he killed Mr Stoodley and Ms Barrett is a matter of degree. Although in some cases the nature of the accused’s mental illness will be such that the medical experts will agree that there is a black or white answer to whether the mental illness deprived the accused of the capacity to control his actions, this is not such a case. There is room for different expert opinions about the accused’s psychiatric diagnosis and his capacity to control his actions. Further, I found Dr Tanney’s evidence as to whether the accused was suffering from hypomania or mania at the time of the killings and whether, if it was only hypomania, this would be sufficient to deprive the accused of the capacity to control his actions to be both confusing and inconsistent. Therefore, I have decided to determine whether the accused’s state of mental impairment deprived him of the capacity to control his actions by primarily considering the inferences that should be drawn from the totality of the accused’s conduct, words and the surrounding circumstances, rather than by concentrating on the accused’s psychiatric diagnosis. It seems that no matter what the causes of the accused’s conduct, he was in a state of mental impairment and if he had lost the capacity to control his actions, I would inevitably have to conclude that his state of mental impairment was a significant cause of that deprivation of capacity. In saying this, I do not intend to ignore the psychiatric evidence as to what the accused was suffering from at the time. It remains a very relevant consideration.

508 There are a number of aspects of the accused’s conduct which I must consider in order to answer this question. Those aspects include the duration of the fatal incident, the nature of the accused’s actions during the fatal incident and their complexity, the extent to which his conduct was targeted as opposed to being random or disorganised, whether there was a rational motive for the fatal incident, whether there was a reason for the fatal incident, the accused’s response to his actions, what inferences can be drawn about the accused’s feelings or emotions during the attack and the accused’s recollection of and any explanation for his actions and feelings. I must also consider his behaviour and thinking in the days before and after the fatal incident.

509 Given the number of wounds inflicted on Mr Stoodley and Ms Barrett, the attack must have taken some time for the accused to complete. I do not know how long it lasted but I think that it must have taken a number of minutes before Mr SutherlandMcCourt came out of the bedroom and saw the end of it. It is not a situation where the accused lashed out quickly because he was unable to control an impulse and in that moment inflicted the fatal wounds. The fact that the fatal attack took some time to complete tends to suggest either that the accused deliberately decided to inflict the fatal wounds or even if he did not have the initial capacity to control his actions, there was time during the incident for him to regain that control and having done so he continued to fatally attack Mr Stoodley and Ms Barrett.

528 Dr Tanney said that there would have to be a trigger to cause the accused to lose the capacity to control his actions. Dr Tanney does not know what the trigger was and there is no direct evidence of any trigger. It would be speculation on my part to hypothesise about what the trigger could be. However, there is evidence that the accused had triggers which would make him angry. I have mentioned these already. I am not satisfied that in the past any of those triggers had resulted in the accused losing the capacity to control his actions. This makes it less likely that any such trigger would have deprived him of the capacity in the early hours of 25 August 2011.

529 For these reasons, I find that the accused has not proved, on the balance of probabilities, that he was in such a state of mental impairment when he killed Mr Stoodley or Ms Barrett as to deprive him of the capacity to control his actions.

Has the State proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had the capacity to form an intention to kill or to inflict a lifethreatening injury?

530 I rely on the uncontroverted evidence of Dr Tanney and Dr Brett to the effect that, if the accused had the capacity to control his actions, then he also had the capacity to form an intention to kill or to inflict a lifethreatening injury on Mr Stoodley and Ms Barrett. Even accepting that the accused had some alcohol and other drugs on the evening of 24 August 2011, he was not so intoxicated that he lacked the capacity to form a relevant intention.