R. v. Graveline (R.) (2006), 347 N.R. 268 (SCC)

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[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]


Temp. Cite: [2006] N.R. TBEd. AP.041

Rita Graveline (appellant) v. Her Majesty The Queen (respondent)

(31020; 2006 SCC 16; 2006 CSC 16)

Indexed As: R. v. Graveline (R.)

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Fish, Abella and Charron, JJ.

April 27, 2006.


The accused was charged with the second degree murder of her husband. The only de­fence raised by the accused was non-men­tal disorder automatism. The trial judge, on his own initiative, opened for the jury’s consid­eration the possibility of an acquittal based on self-defence. The accused was acquitted. The Crown appealed.

The Quebec Court of Appeal, Rous­seau- Houle, J.A., dissenting, set aside the acquittal and ordered a new trial. The accused ap­pealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada, Lebel, J., dissenting, allowed the appeal and restored the acquittal.

Criminal Law – Topic 4802

Appeals – Indictable offences – General principles – Burden on Crown appellant re­specting errors by trial judge – The only defence raised by an accused at a murder trial was non-mental disorder automatism -The trial judge, on his own initiative, opened for the jury’s consideration the possibility of an acquittal based on self- defence – The accused was acquitted – The Quebec Court of Appeal allowed a Crown ap­peal and ordered a new trial – The Su­preme Court of Canada restored the acquit­tal – It had been long established that a Crown appeal could not succeed on an ab­stract or purely hypothetical possibility that the accused would have been con­victed but for the error of law – Something more had to be shown – To obtain a new trial, the Crown had to establish that the trial judge’s error(s) might reasonably be thought, in the concrete reality of the case, to have had a material bearing on the acquittal – The Crown was not required to establish that the verdict would necessarily have been different – Generally, alleged errors would go to the defence(s) upon which the accused had relied at trial – For that reason, the errors’ impact on the ver­dict, would not be a mere matter of specu­lation – However, here the Crown asserted that the jury might have acquitted based on a ground not relied on by the accused (self-defence), there was no reasonable basis for that defence and the trial judge misdirected the jury on the defence – In effect, the Crown sought a finding that the jury acquitted on what the Crown charac­terized as an unreasonable basis (self-defence) rather than on what it recognized as a reasonable basis (automatism) – The Crown had not discharged its “very heavy” burden – See paragraphs 1 to 20.

Criminal Law – Topic 4951

Appeals – Indictable offences – New trials -Grounds – Misdirection by trial judge – Ap­peal by Crown from acquittal – [See
Crim­inal Law – Topic 4802

Criminal Law – Topic 4975

Appeals – Indictable offences – Powers of Court of Appeal – Appeal from an acquittal – [See
Criminal Law – Topic 4802

Cases Noticed:

R. v. Evans (B.J.), [1993] 2 S.C.R. 629; 153 N.R. 212; 28 B.C.A.C. 81; 47 W.A.C. 81, refd to. [para. 13].

Cullen v. R., [1949] S.C.R. 658, refd to. [para. 15].

R. v. Morin, [1988] 2 S.C.R. 345; 88 N.R. 161; 30 O.A.C. 81, refd to. [paras. 15, 29].

R. v. Sutton (K.M.), [2000] 2 S.C.R. 595; 262 N.R. 384; 230 N.B.R.(2d) 205; 593 A.P.R. 205; 2000 SCC 5, refd to. [para. 16].

R. v. Livermore (C.), [1995] 4 S.C.R. 123; 189 N.R. 126; 87 O.A.C. 81; 102 C.C.C.(3d) 212, refd to. [para. 28].

White v. R., [1947] S.C.R. 268, refd to. [para. 29].

R. v. Vézeau, [1977] 2 S.C.R. 277; 8 N.R. 235, refd to. [para. 29].

Statutes Noticed:

Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, sect. 676(1)(a) [para. 13].


Isabelle Doray, for the appellant;

Denis Pilon and Martin Côté, for the re­spondent.

Solicitors of Record:

Soulière Lapointe Doray Michaud La­mour­eux, Montreal, Quebec, for the appellant;

Deputy Attorney General of Quebec, Que­bec, for the respondent.

This appeal was heard on March 14, 2006, before McLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Bin­nie, LeBel, Fish, Abella and Charron, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada was deliv­er­ed in both official languages on April 27, 2006, and the following opinions were filed:

Fish, J. (McLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Binnie, Abella and Charron, JJ., con­curring) – see paragraphs 1 to 20;

Lebel, J., dissenting – see paragraphs 21 to 31.


R. v. Graveline (R.)

(2006), 347 N.R. 268 (SCC)

Supreme Court of Canada
Reading Time:
12 minutes
Abella, Bastarache, Binnie, Charron, Fish, LeBel, McLachlin 

Fish, J.
: The appellant was charged with second-degree murder for having caused the death of her husband on August 10, 1999. She was acquitted by a jury of that charge (and of the included offence of man­slaughter). On an appeal by the Crown against that verdict, the Court of Appeal for Quebec, in a majority judgment, set aside the appellant’s acquittal by the jury and ordered a new trial ([2005] R.J.Q. 1662; 2005 QCCA 574). This is an appeal as of right based on the dissent of Rousseau-Houle, J.A., in the Court of Appeal.

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