News Brief: The Victim’s Story from a Landmark Case on Attempted Murder

One of the most important criminal law cases decided under the Charter is R. v. Logan, [1990] 2 SCR 731.  The case involved the robbery of a Becker’s milk store, in which an 18 year old store clerk, Barbara Turnbull, was shot in the neck and became a quadriplegic.

Four men involved in the robbery were convicted by a jury of attempted murder.   Subsequently, two of them appealed, and their appeal was allowed on the grounds that the provision in the Criminal Code violated their Charter rights.  Section 21(2) states that it is sufficient for the conviction of parties to a crime that they “ought to have known” that the offence would be committed.  That is what is known as a reasonable person standard.  The Supreme Court held that for a crime with a stigma as severe as attempted murder, actual subjective knowledge by the defendant must be proven.  They felt that a conviction for armed robbery, with a penalty that could be varied to reflect the gravity of the outcome, was a sufficient deterrent.

The victim became a Toronto Star reporter. It is now the thirtieth anniversary of the shooting, and she has written a moving autobiographical article, “What I Know: Lessons from My 30 years of Quadriplegia” on her life since the event. She is one of those people who managed to overcome the bitterness. She has no use of her limbs, and is grateful for the technology that “makes it possible to operate a wheelchair with my head,” while requiring help “for everything from eating and brushing my teeth to bathing and emptying my bowels.”

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