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This article was published 13/11/2013 (2428 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The psychologist who diagnosed Cassandra Knott as having severe post-traumatic stress disorder due to ugly domestic abuse inflicted by her husband says he can't be absolutely sure it wasn't drunken anger -- not fear -- that led Knott to stab in the chest the man she still claims to love.
Under cross-examination by the Crown at Knott's murder trial Wednesday, Dr. David Kolton said he can't be "100 per cent certain" that Knott didn't stab Orzias Joram Knott, 34, out of intoxication-fuelled anger, as prosecutors allege she did.
Knott, 30, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in connection to her husband's death, which came hours after he was stabbed in a Kennedy Street suite on the evening of Feb. 18, 2011. She's seeking an outright acquittal, arguing she acted in self-defence.
Court has heard Knott, who started dating her husband at age 15 when he was 21, was routinely physically and emotionally abused by him over their many years together. Knott testified she was beaten by her husband moments before she stabbed him a single time in the chest.
It's an act she claims to not remember, but says she committed out of fear of being hurt further by him. The couple, along with the victim's brother, had been drinking together prior to the stabbing.
Kolton was contracted by Knott's defence team to interview and assess her mental state and was provided case materials, witness statements and police notes as part of his review. Kolton ultimately found Knott to have PTSD caused by domestic violence and incidents in her early childhood.
"Her suffering from this disorder contributed to her thoughts, feelings and behaviours at the time that the offence occurred," Kolton told court. In coming to his PTSD diagnosis, he said Knott had nearly all the symptoms required to arrive at this conclusion.
These included experiencing a past traumatic event leaving a person with feelings of intense fear, helplessness or horror, as well as feelings of detachment and estrangement from others. "She had far more symptoms than are required for the diagnosis."
In her relationship with her husband, it was "quite clear" Knott was lodged in what is often called the "cycle" of domestic violence, Kolton said. The three phases of the cycle -- tension buildup, acute physical battering and then "contrite loving" -- were all present and persistent.
"Her ability to differentiate between fear and anger is quite limited," Kolton testified. As well, Knott's uses of the words "fight" and "argument" to describe events are likely being misunderstood by those who haven't experienced abusive relationships, said Kolton.
"In my experience, individuals who are victims of domestic violence use those words to describe an abusive episode, whereas individuals outside abusive relationships would use those words to describe an exchange between two equal parties," he told defence lawyer Gerri Wiebe.
The Crown contends Knott knows the difference between anger and fear.
The trial continues Friday with closing arguments from both sides.
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