Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Automatism: The Sleepwalker's Defense

On Second Thought

Jocelyn Hotte had already been convicted of murder and attempted murder when his new attorney realized there was such a thing as the automatism defense. He applied to the top court for a new trial.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police crest
Royal Canadian Mounted Police crest

A member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, in 2001 Hotte had chased after a car along a highway out of Montreal, firing fifteen shots. His former girlfriend, Lucie Gelinas, had been driving and there had been three male passengers in the car. Hotte killed Gelinas and wounded the others. He was convicted of murder and attempted murder, so he faced a minimum of twenty-five years in prison.

However, Nellie Benoit, part of Hotte's new legal tem, argued that the jury had not been told about his sleep disorder. The attorneys contended that the judge should have raised the defense even if the defense attorney hadn't. The issue went to the Supreme Court for consideration.

On March 18, 2006, the justices rejected the issue before the hearing was completed. They saw no convincing evidence, despite medical records about Hotte's depression, that he had acted in a robotic manner when he chased down the car and started shooting. They rejected the request for a new trial, ending Hotte's bid for reopening his case. Yet during this same session, the court considered an appeal from a similar case, but this time they would examine the issue of automatism more closely.

 

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