Lawyers for a South Surrey mother charged in the December 2014 smothering death of her eight-year-old daughter say their client’s level of intoxication at the time may have limited Lisa Batstone’s ability to gauge the consequences of killing her daughter.
And that, defence counsel submitted in B.C. Supreme Court Monday – along with borderline personality traits, significant levels of depression and a “cloud of stressors” – raises doubt as to whether Batstone had the intent to kill.
Batstone is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of her daughter Teagan, whose body was found in the trunk of a vehicle that became stuck in a cul-de-sac off of Crescent Road on Dec. 10, 2014.
Court proceedings – including a voir-dire hearing to determine if statements Batstone made prior to being advised of her right to counsel would be admissible at trial – began in early October.
Justice Catherine Murray ultimately allowed the statements, which included disturbing accounts of how Teagan died.
Over the course of the trial, the court heard from various witnesses, including the arresting officer, medical professionals who interacted with Batstone following her arrest and Teagan’s father, Gabe Batstone.
The court heard that Batstone told hospital officials that she just wanted Teagan “to be with Jesus,” and she killed Teagan “to spite Gabe.”
However, defence argued Monday that there were too many variables that impacted Batstone’s state of mind in a negative way – heightened by alcohol consumption – at the time of the killing, and it’s possible that Batstone didn’t know that her actions would kill her daughter.
Another scenario suggested by defence counsel on Monday was that the mother “acted in an altruistic motive in a distorted belief that she was saving, or protecting, her child” by killing her.
Noting the only question is around intent, the lawyers said “it’s impossible to know… what truly was in Batstone’s mind in these crucial moments” before Teagan’s death.
Defence counsel suggested Crown has not proven intent beyond a reasonable doubt. Manslaughter, the lawyers suggested, would be a more appropriate finding.
Defence went over Batstone’s alcohol consumption the morning of the killing. On Dec. 7, Batstone bought a three-litre box of wine and six mixed-drinks. Police found the empty box of wine Dec. 10.
However, it’s not known precisely how much alcohol Batstone consumed before killing her daughter. Batstone told police that she had “some wine” before and after the incident.
In its closing submissions, defence explained that Batstone fell asleep after smothering her daughter and had memory problems, both consistent with excessive alcohol consumption.
“Or, she didn’t want to talk about it,” Murray said.
“Or, they’re lies,” defence counsel Eric Gottardi responded, adding that each scenario is “equally reasonable” and the Crown can’t prove one or the other.
Additional evidence of Batstone’s level of intoxication at the time of the murder, Gottardi said, was a string of emotional and odd text messages.
“She just killed her daughter,” Murray said. “It would be absurd if someone wasn’t emotional.”
Defence suggested that the Crown would move forward with a revenge-killing theory, in that Batstone murdered Teagan over a feud with her ex-husband.
Among the reasons why the killing couldn’t have been out of revenge, the defence said, is that Batstone would have needed to hate Gabe so much, that the hatred outweighed her love for Teagan.
Another reason, defence argued, is that Batstone wrote a letter saying, “I can’t believe I took my daughter’s life,” and that if it were a revenge killing, there would be no disbelief.
The proceedings were scheduled to continue Tuesday, after Peace Arch News’ print deadline.