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Judge dismisses man's 'suicide by cop' defence

Found guilty on six charges including robbery, assaulting police

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A man’s outlandish bid to escape conviction on robbery and assault charges by claiming it was all part of a scheme to have police kill him failed this afternoon when the trial judge dismissed his "suicide by cop" defence.

Justice Richard Saull said John Charlette may have wanted to die when he found himself confronted by two Winnipeg police officers in a dark alley after a botched robbery.

But Saull said Charlette’s own testimony showed he only made up the "suicide by cop" defence after he got caught.

"I did not find (Charlette) credible on key points regarding his intentions that night," Saull said. "My view is he tailored his evidence to suit his purposes …. his purposes being to avoid conviction to the most serious offences he faces."

Saull found Charlette guilty on six of the eight charges he faced: robbery, two counts of assaulting police, two counts of assault with a weapon, and possession of a weapon.

Charlette will be sentenced at a later date.

Charlette was shot twice by police in a dark alley in the early hours of July 21, 2011, after a botched robbery of taxi driver. He spent six days in hospital before being taken into custody and at that time explained to investigators that the robbery was a scheme to bring the police down on him and to have them kill him.

Defence lawyer Jody Ostapiw said that Charlette had been depressed and suicidal and believed he could coerce the police into killing him by staging a phony robbery and then pretending to attack the responding officers with a knife.

Saull said he found Charlette to be intelligent and articulate and clever, "but not clever enough."

Saull said Charlette’s "suicide by cop" explanation, "wasn’t plausible, it didn’t make any sense."

Saull said that even if he believed Charlette had orchestrated all the events that night to ensure his own death, his own actions supported findings of guilt to the most serious charges: Charlette hailed a cab without having any money; he held the cab driver up with a 12-inch butcher knife; when confronted by two police officers, he lunged at both of them with the knife.

Saull said Charlette could have brought the police down on himself without staging a robbery, he never called police after the robbery failed, and he hid in an alley to escape being caught.

"His evidence (at trial) lacked consistency… and was inconsistent with what he told police (following his arrest)," Saul said.

Saull praised the cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Mark Kantor during last week’s trial, describing it as "precise, measured (and) unveiled the accused clearly as lying on key points and embellishing on others."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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