Her Majesty The Queen v. Kevin Eric Goforth
(Saskatchewan) (Criminal) (As of Right)
(Publication ban in case)
Criminal law - Appeals, Charge to jury, Offences - Criminal law - Appeals - Charge to jury - Offences - Failure to provide necessaries of life - Elements of mens rea - Whether the Court of Appeal erred by finding the trial judge failed to provide adequate directions to the jury when relating the evidence to the mens rea of the predicate offence of failing to provide the necessaries of life - Whether the Court of Appeal erred by finding tthe respondent’s personal characteristics were relevant factors in the objective mens rea analysis - Whether the Court of Appeal erred by finding the trial judge’s mens rea instructions may have confused the jury - Whether the Court of Appeal erred by applying an incorrect standard to its review of the jury instructions - Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s. 215.
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The respondent, Mr. Goforth, and his wife were jointly charged with the second-degree murder of a four-year-old child they had been fostering (“older child”), and with unlawfully causing bodily harm to a second two-year-old foster child (“younger child”). The predicate offence underlying both charges was failing to provide the necessaries of life, contrary to s. 215 of the Criminal Code. A jury convicted both accused of unlawfully causing bodily harm to the younger child, and found Ms. Goforth guilty of the second-degree murder of the older child. The jury found Mr. Goforth guilty of the lesser and included offence of manslaughter in relation to the death of the older child. Mr. Goforth appealed his convictions.
A majority of the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan allowed the appeal, set aside Mr. Goforth’s convictions, and ordered a new trial. The majority did not find error in the trial judge’s charge to the jury in relation to the actus reus of the offence of failing to provide the necessaries of life, but concluded that the trial judge’s explanation of mens rea contained material legal error and that the charge failed to adequately relate the evidence to the mens rea requirements of s. 215. In dissent, Caldwell J.A. would have dismissed the appeal and upheld the convictions.
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