Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jurors find bear-sprayed stabber not guilty of aggravated assault

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A Winnipeg man has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing after he stabbed a Wolseley-area dad in a bizarre confrontation on a usually tranquil residential street.

A Court of Queen's Bench jury found David Roberts, 39, not guilty of aggravated assault for stabbing Christopher Pate, 48, one time in the chest, an act that left Pate in hospital for six days and needing emergency surgery.

Roberts argued -- and the jury appears to have found -- he acted in self-defence in the April 22, 2011 incident in which Pate bear-sprayed Roberts just prior to the stabbing.

The six man, six-woman jury deliberated about day and a half before acquitting him.

"I knew I was not guilty," Roberts told the Free Press after the verdict Wednesday evening. "I knew it would be the outcome."

The incident between the total strangers started when Pate's son called him for help, saying he and a friend were being pursued by strangers in a car while out walking.

Pate testified Roberts pulled up in his car on Ruby Street and they jostled after Roberts made moves suggesting he was going to go after the youths.

Pate said he used the bear spray because Roberts was becoming "increasingly angry" and Pate didn't know how to get out of the confrontation. However, Pate turned around to face Roberts again after initially walking a short distance away from the dispute.

Roberts testified the effects of the noxious spray compromised his vision and breathing. In a "reflex reaction," he said he stabbed Pate with a carpet knife he had in his pants pocket. He said he believed his life was in imminent danger when Pate turned to face him again.

An independent witness told court Roberts appeared to keep his cool in the dispute until he was sprayed a second time by Pate, according to Justice Shane Perlmutter's review of the evidence for the jury. "That is, he was pushed and didn't retaliate," Perlmutter said.

"The jury made the right decision, the just decision," Roberts' defence lawyer, Jay Prober, said. "He was attacked with a prohibited weapon. He's a law-abiding citizen."

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2014 B3

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