A Supreme Court justice has ruled that a Chilliwack man who killed his wife is fit to stand trial even though he suffers from a terminal disease that limits his physical and mental capacity.
David Miller is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Susan Miller on Boxing Day in 2009.
Both Crown counsel and the defence agree that David Miller stabbed his wife to death in her bedroom, then went downstairs and told his teenage daughter to call police. The key issue in the case revolves around Miller's mental state at the time of the killing.
Miller suffers from Huntington's disease, a neurological disorder that causes both the body and mind to degenerate. Caused by a genetic mutation, the disorder has no cure and is always fatal.
At a hearing in early September, defence lawyer Paul McMurray argued that Miller's deficient short-term memory would make it impossible for him to take part in the trial.
While Crown counsel Henry Waldock didn't take a formal position on the issue, he noted that fitness to stand trial "is a very low threshold."
Joyce, in making his decision, noted that Miller's "functional capacity has deteriorated significantly in the past three yeas and that it will continue to deteriorate."
He continued: "Mr. Miller appears to have almost no ability to recall and repeat simple phrases that he has just heard. He appears to have no appreciation of what day or what year it is. He cannot perform tasks requiring only very modest cognition."
But Joyce also said that Miller has some ability to participate in the legal process.
"He does not appear to be completely devoid of comprehension or the ability to process verbal communication," wrote Joyce, citing Miller's expression of remorse and his reluctance to discuss the killing with a court-appointed lawyer.
"In my view, on the basis of the evidence on this hearing," Joyce concluded, "I am unable to find on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Miller’s level of cognitive functioning due to his Huntington’s dementia has dropped below the limited cognitive capacity that an accused must possess in order to communicate with his counsel."
Joyce noted, however, that before the case is concluded, Miller's mental state may still yet deteriorate to a point where he is unfit to stand trial.
"The issue can be re-visited if counsel or the court believes that to be the case, but I am not satisfied at this time that Mr. Miller is unfit to stand trial."
A trial would likely take place in front of a Supreme Court Justice next spring.