Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Delivers Verdict in the 2016 Stabbing of Frederick Bird

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On October 3, 2018, a twelve person jury at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench delivered the verdict in the controversial stabbing of Frederick Bird in 2016. According to CBC Manitoba, on March 8, 2016, Bernadette Neepin, Frederick Bird, and another adult witness were in her Winnipeg living room drinking when Bird allegedly molested her four year old son underneath blankets. Neepin says she asked her son if Bird had touched him, and the child said “yes”. Upon hearing this, Neepin stabbed and killed Bird. After the stabbing, the witness says that he heard the child say “just kidding”.

At the time of the stabbing, both Neepin and Bird were heavily intoxicated. In addition, medical examiners also found that Bird had high levels of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) in his blood.

At trial, experts testified that Bird’s high level of intoxication would significantly impair most reasonable people, and make them do things which they wouldn’t normally do under ordinary circumstances.

During the trial, Neepin’s defence argued that she lacked the intent to kill Bird. They also alleged that her level of intoxication in combination with the threat to her son led her to stab Bird. Neepin testified that she blacked out just before stabbing Bird and has little recollection of the stabbing itself. In addition, she also testified that she didn’t hear her son say “just kidding”.

In opposition, the Crown argued that Neepin didn’t act reasonably, and instead acted with intention. Rather than removing her son from the situation or getting help, the Crown believes that Neepin acquired a knife and intentionally stabbed Bird over four times- with some stab wounds deeper than 15 centimetres in the general heart region.

At trial, the jury convicted Neepin on a charge of manslaughter rather than second-degree murder. Neepin is currently awaiting sentencing.

What exactly is the difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter?

In Canada, manslaughter is distinguished from second-degree murder by intent. To be convicted of second-degree murder, the jury (or judge) must find that the accused had the intention to kill. Conversely, to be convicted of manslaughter, the jury (or judge) must find that the accused lacked the intention to kill.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.