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British Columbia

Justice says B.C. man who stabbed wife in back was ‘effectively asleep’, not guilty

A BC man who literally stabbed his wife in the back on Easter Monday 2017 was too intense with a cocktail of prescription drugs to have done so voluntarily, the provincial Supreme Court ruled.

Judge Warren Milman found that Jean-Luc Perignon was “effectively asleep” when he came down from his second-story bedroom on the Sunshine Coast at around 10 p.m. on April 17, 2017 and stabbed his wife in the back with a kitchen knife as she entered own room on the ground floor.

The two slept separately because Perignon suffered from severe insomnia. He had had trouble sleeping since he was young and was treating it with bromazepam, a drug from the benzodiazepine family, until the summer of 2016. At that time, the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons passed new regulations banning the prescription of benzodiazepines along with opioids.

The problem for Perignon was that he also relied heavily on morphine to treat the pain of two car accidents he was involved in, one of which left him with a spinal fracture. Since his wife had just been fired, Perignon said he chose to stick with opioids and drop sleeping pills so he could get through workdays himself.

Over the next nine months, Perignon and his doctor tried a variety of different drugs to replace the benzodiazepine and get him to sleep. None of them worked, so they eventually turned to a sedative hypnotic called zopiclone. It also poses some dangers when combined with opioids.

Perignon started on 5 milligrams of the new drug. On the day of the stabbing, he had taken 26.25 mg of it – well above the recommended dose, according to a psychiatrist who testified at the trial.

Perignon was also taking dangerously high levels of morphine, several psychiatrists said. Current health guidelines describe 90 mg as high-risk, and Perignon was taking 400 mg per day. One psychiatrist testified that for someone unaccustomed to opioids, a dose of 200-300 mg can be fatal.

Perignon told the court that on the night of April 17, 2017, he had no recollection of lying in bed and standing over his wife while she screamed in pain. He said as soon as he realized what had happened, he ran back to his bedroom and locked himself in it, afraid he might pose another danger to his loved ones. Then he called 911.

In his Jan. 27 decision, Milman noted that Perignon had no history of violence and that his testimony was largely reliable. He concluded that Perignon was at least in a severely impaired mental state and more likely in a state of automatism of non-mental disorders or “effectively asleep”.

Perignon was found not guilty.

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