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Battered wife acquitted of second-degree murder

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A Winnipeg woman who for years was subjected to physical and emotional abuse by her husband acted in self defence when she stabbed him to death, a Manitoba judge has found.

Cassandra Knott, 30, acted with reasonable force when she stabbed her husband, Orzias Knott, once in the chest as he angrily advanced on her inside a downtown apartment on Feb. 18, 2011, Court of Queen's Bench Associate Chief Justice Shane Perlmutter found today.

An emotional Knott began wailing and hugged defence lawyer Gerri Wiebe after learning she was being acquitted of second-degree murder. Her tragic case thrust the historic abuse she suffered at the victim's hands into the spotlight and became a focal point in her defence.

Perlmutter's decision in Knott's case became the first-ever in Manitoba to be recorded by media cameras for broadcast to the general public.

Prosecutors had argued Knott had stabbed him out of drunken anger. They countered her self-defence claim by contending she had used more force than was reasonable in the circumstances.

Perlmutter found that wasn't the case. Her use of a knife was akin to a "reflexive action" as Orzias backed her up against a kitchen counter during a relentless attack, he suggested.

Minutes earlier, he'd attacked Knott and pinned her to a couch. Her efforts to fend him off by swinging a mop at him didn't stop him.

Neither did the presence of another man, who got between the husband and wife seconds before she stabbed him. Orzias still wouldn't back off.

It was reasonable for Knott to believe that her husband was going to cause her grievous bodily harm, Perlmutter ruled in acquitting her.

Perlmutter found at the time of the stabbing, Knott suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and met the definition of a battered woman as defined in Canadian law.

The pair met in the Garden Hill area in 1998 and married in 2002.

At trial late last year, Perlmutter was presented with corroborating evidence of the sometimes extreme abuse Orzias inflicted on Knott throughout virtually their entire relationship.

The hearing was well-attended, and the lone pool camera — while certainly a curiosity — did not appear to cause any disturbance to the proceedings.

The only image shown was of Perlmutter delivering his reasons to acquit Knott from the bench.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 3:58 PM CDT: Removes reference to common-law.

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