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Weapon is key, defence says, in attempted murder case in Courtenay

Clinton Armstrong faces other charges including unlawful confinement, assault
Final submissions were Monday in a case against a Comox Valley man charged with a number of offences, including attempted murder. Record file photo

Clinton G. Armstrong had a choice of weapon, says his lawyer, and his picking a box-cutter instead of a kitchen knife helps show he did not attempt to murder his partner.

The Comox Valley man has been on trial in Supreme Court in Courtenay for just over a week to face charges including attempted murder. The other charges include assault, break-and-enter, unlawful confinement, assault with a weapon, aggravated assaults, uttering threats, mischief and two breaches of the undertaking. Basically, the issue for the court revolves around three of the allegations: the assault, the confinement and the attempted murder.

The case surrounds incidents in late 2019 and early 2020 between the accused and his partner as their romantic relationship was disintegrating. Armstrong was arrested in February 2020 and had a preliminary inquiry a year ago to determine whether the case would go to trial. There is a ban on the publication of evidence from the preliminary.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley man charged with attempted murder, unlawful imprisonment

During the latter altercation, Bobak Movassaghi, Armstrong’s lawyer, said his client had a choice between a box-cutter and a kitchen knife.

“We know which Mr. Armstrong used,” he said.

During final submissions Monday, the defence lawyer pointed the weapon used and the nature of the injuries to dismiss the attempted murder charge, saying this evidence is more consistent with a charge of aggravated assault. The motion was a slicing motion, not a stabbing one. He also pointed out the victim was discharged from hospital the same night after having her wounds treated.

“I’m not trying to minimize her injuries,” Movassaghi said.

Crown counsel Bob Richardson mentioned she had slices on different parts of her body, including her head, face and neck.

Movassaghi also pointed out that while Armstrong told the victim he would kill her a number of times, he ended saying he would not kill her but only maim her.

Justice Anthony Saunders did point out that intent can change. He also noted a slicing motion could be made on a person’s jugular vein, adding the victim’s second wound was on her neck.

Defence also used the argument the accused, heavily intoxicated, could not remember the incident, but the judge had trouble with this reasoning.

“I don’t know what weight to give that,” Saunders said. “He claims amnesia.”

Movassaghi also touched on the confinement charge, saying it surrounded a short period during which the victim could not get out the door of the house. The lawyer said a victim must be fully restrained, according to case law, and she was not in this case.

He also questioned an alleged assault from late December at the couple’s home, suggesting a red mark in a photo on her face was from blushing. More important, he said, the audio from a 911 call did not give any indication of a slap or any physical incident.

“We could not hear anything in terms of a slap,” he said.

For Crown counsel’s final submissions, Richardson focused on issues such as Armstrong’s level of intoxication and referred to threats the accused had made against his partner, suggesting Armstrong’s intent was to kill his partner and himself, based on what he had told her. He cited evidence such as Armstrong’s threatening to cut her throat.

“That is a very direct threat,” he added.

He also outlined the breakdown of the relationship in fall 2019, especially because of Armstrong’s drinking, which led to a separation agreement, with Armstrong moving out. Richardson said the victim was shocked by the events because the accused had not been physically aggressive with her prior to the first incident.

The Crown was discussing the confinement question, noting Armstrong had his partner by the hair, telling her to fight for her life. At one point, the accused interrupted to question the Crown’s portrayal of his state of mind.

While the judge told Armstrong the Crown had the right to make its case, Justice Saunders did question the Crown’s conclusions around intent, saying he would have to be able to draw no other inference as to Armstrong’s state of mind from what was being presented.

The case has been adjourned until Aug. 6 for the verdict.

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