Warning: This article contains details that may be disturbing to readers
The South Surrey mother who was sentenced to life in prison for smothering her eight-year-old daughter to death with a plastic bag seven years ago is to learn this morning (Oct. 22) if Court of Appeal judges agree that her conviction was made in error.
The decision on the case regarding Lisa Batstone comes nearly seven months after her appeal was heard.
During those virtual proceedings, lawyers for Batstone submitted that the judge who convicted Batstone of second-degree murder had erred in concluding that the mother had intended to cause eight-year-old Teagan’s death.
Justice Catherine Murray “didn’t explain how or why she came to this exceedingly unusual conclusion,” defence counsel Rebecca McConchie told Chief Justice Robert Bauman and Justices Mary Saunders and Richard Goepel during the March 30 appeal.
Batstone, who killed her daughter in the early morning hours of Dec. 20, 2014, was charged with second-degree murder after Teagan’s body was found in the trunk of a car in a cul-de-sac off Crescent Road, and following trial, was sentenced to 15 years before she could apply for release.
The only issue at trial was whether Batstone had intended to kill her daughter.
Prosecutors contended that evidence made it clear that this was indeed the case. They pointed to the fact that Batstone never called 911, and that she left notes that read, “I’m so sorry” and “you win Gabe, you broke me,” as well as a four-page letter with phrases that included, “I couldn’t imagine leaving here and leaving her to him.”
Defence counsel had argued that the mother’s level of intoxication at the time she killed Teagan – along with borderline personality traits, significant levels of depression and a “cloud of stressors” – may have limited her ability to gauge the consequences of her actions.
Murray, however, said she was “not convinced” that Batstone’s mental health was the reason for the murder, rather, that “Teagan was the pawn in her mother’s revenge” against Teagan’s father, Gabe Batstone, for the collapse of their marriage.
She found the mother’s actions were “purposeful and goal-driven,” and that “whatever the motive… the only possible inference is that her intent was to end Teagan’s life.”
In the Court of Appeal hearing, McConchie said Murray reached her conclusion by filling gaps in the evidence through speculation. Murray determined that Batstone had purposefully chosen a thick plastic bag to use on Teagan, that she watched her daughter die for four to five minutes, and in what order Batstone took the steps that she did following Teagan’s death, McConchie said in citing examples to support her argument.
McConchie submitted that Murray’s findings were inconsistent with the evidence and described the judge’s contention that Batstone’s post-offence conduct led to only one conclusion as “significantly prejudiced.”
Co-counsel Eric Gottardi said Batstone “did not receive a fair trial.”
Representing the Crown, Mark Levitz agreed that Murray misapprehended one piece of evidence – regarding expert testimony around how long it took for Teagan to die – but said it did not go to the core of the judge’s reasoning.
He disagreed that the trial judge found everything that Batstone did after killing Teagan to be relevant in determining intent.
She focused on emails and letters that Batstone wrote, as well as statements she made to police and medical personnel, that had a “constant” theme of wanting to end Teagan’s suffering, he said. At no point in any of those did Batstone indicate that she didn’t realize smothering her daughter would end her life, he noted.
If somehow Batstone didn’t understand she was killing Teagan, it is “inconceivable” that she didn’t seek help the moment that reality hit, Levitz said.
“It’s reasonable to assume that a loving mother who didn’t intend to cause death would immediately seek help (upon realizing she had). And she never did.”
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