Woman cleared in fatal stabbing of abusive partner

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A Manitoba woman who stabbed her longtime partner to death has been acquitted of manslaughter after her lawyers argued she suffered from battered woman syndrome.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/10/2020 (763 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Manitoba woman who stabbed her longtime partner to death has been acquitted of manslaughter after her lawyers argued she suffered from battered woman syndrome.

“The accused acted in self-defence and must be acquitted for this tragic and unfortunate act that took the life of the deceased,” Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Joan McKelvey ruled in a decision released this week.

Cheryl Mason, 30, stood trial earlier this fall for the Nov. 28, 2018 killing of Craig Flett, 28, on St. Theresa Point First Nation.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

At trial, court heard testimony Flett routinely abused Mason, both physically and sexually, and had been jailed at least twice for assaulting her during their five-year relationship.

On the day of the killing, the two had used methamphetamine and Flett had twice assaulted Mason, once in front of their children. At the time, Flett was bound by a court order to have no contact with Mason, but was living with her in a house she shared with her parents, several siblings and children.

Mason testified she had pocketed a knife and was trying to leave the house in the family truck when Flett blocked her path, and threatened her in a way she said, from past experience, signalled he was about to assault her.

Mason said she had no memory of stabbing Flett in the chest and back and went to family members for help when she saw he was injured.

Court heard Mason had an abusive upbringing before she met the victim, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The PTSD diagnosis overlaps with the collection of symptoms shown to exist within an abusive relationship, often referred to as battered woman syndrome,” McKelvey said.

“The history of abuse paved the pathway for her feelings that she would soon again be experiencing such violence,” she said. “This set of circumstances played into her decision to defend or protect herself from the use or threat of force. The object would be to eliminate the threat… The stabbing was for the purpose of defending or protecting herself from that threat.”

In 2017, Flett was sentenced to two years in jail for assaulting Mason. During one assault, he attacked her with a crowbar, leaving her with a scar on her forehead.

Court heard Flett thwarted any efforts Mason made to break up with him by refusing to leave her family’s home.

While in custody, Flett ordered that Mason remain at home for his phone calls, sometimes as many as three a day, and threatened her with violence at the hands of local gang members if she didn’t answer the phone.

Mason testified Flett’s behaviour worsened upon his release from jail in 2018. She said he threatened her with beatings if she did not listen to him or told others what he had done.

“(Her) statements regarding why she did not leave the relationship are consistent with known factors for why women in abusive relationships do not leave,” McKelvey said. “Efforts on her part to separate from him were typically thwarted by his returning to her home and forcing himself back into the relationship.”

Family members testified they weren’t close with Mason, knew she was being abused, but did not intrude on her relationship with Flett.

“Her family was not truly involved in her protection,” McKelvey said.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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