A Fort St. John resident, Ayelech Ejigu, has been acquitted charges that she attempted to murder her husband, Yadeta Kareba, based on self-defence.
The B.C. Supreme Court made the decision on Nov. 8, 2012.
Ejigu was charged for a June 2010 incident where court documents state that she attempted to murder Kareba by stabbing him with a knife.
The court heard that “battered spouse syndrome defence" could be applied to Ejigu.
The defence relates back to the charges laid against Angelique Lavalee for the murder of her husband in 1986. Lavalee was acquitted based on the idea that she believed her husband would have killed her had she not killed him, based on earlier treatments.
The documents state that Kareba and Ejigu married in 1998. Five years later, Kareba moved to Fort St. John, and four years after that, Ejigu and her two sons moved there as well.
However, the court documents paint a troubled marriage between the two. The documents state that Ejigu claimed that Kareba sexually and physically abused her. The documents refer to testimony from Ejigu that states that Kareba beat her with his shoe and hands, among other acts.
In her testimony, she said that one beating caused her to have a miscarriage.
The documents state that this is customary for husbands and wives in Ethopia, but that she believed Kareba "should not have done that since he was educated."
The documents also state that she believed her husband was having an affair, and that they would argue about it.
Despite the abuse, a psychiatrist assigned to the case, Dr. Koopman, said that she met the criteria of Battered Woman Syndrome identified in the Lavalee case.
Court documents state that Koopman pointed out that Ejigu had no history of violence. It points out that she believed she could not leave her marriage because of cultural expectations, finances and the need to provide a family for her sons.
The court documents also state that Ejigu testified that she felt alone and isolated in Fort St. John.
When she went to the doctor, Kareba would go along to translate and on the way to the doctor, would tell her not to say that he caused the injuries, according to the court documents.
Her testimony also refers to an incident that took place three days before the stabbing. In it, Kareba drove her out to the woods near Fort St. John, then took out a folding her knife. Court documents said that Ejigu said that Yareba told Ejigu that her mind was messed up, and that he would kill her and kill himself "and leave her for the bears to eat."
Ejigu claimed that she begged him to spare her and told her that she would "try to control [her] mind."
Later on, Ejigu said Kabera called to her in an angry tone. Afterwards, Ejigu claims that a fight ensued, and Kareba attempted to choke her.
Kareba's testimony in the court documents does not refer to either this fight or attempting to choke her. Kareba also denied having an affair, hitting her, or sexually abusing her.
Koopman later claimed that he believed she feared that on this incident, she would be more seriously harmed and perhaps killed.
“This is not to say that she had these conscious thoughts but that her emotional perception was one of imminent threat of death by her husband,” according to the court documents.
Koopman also claimed that Ejigu never referred to Kareba as terrible or awful, but that she always referenced what she had done to bring on the violent conduct. According to the court documents, Koopman said this was typical of battered wife syndrome.
Afterwards, Kareba went to a neighbour’s house, where they called 9-11. He had multiple injuries near his head, according to court documents.
The documents also state that Ejigu flagged down a car while covered in blood on her face and clothes. Ejigu allegedly asked for police, and the passing motorist took her to the police station.
She was then arrested and charged.
However, the court documents refer to mistakes made in Ejigu’s court process.
After being arrested, she stayed in custody until March, 2011, when she was released on bail.
The trial was set to continue in Vancouver that September, but Ejigu was arrested on another offence.
The documents state that Ejigu was not able to continue with the trial, partly because of her mental state.
It goes on to say that last February, Ejigu was ordered fit to stand trial, but that she be kept at the forensic mental hospital “because of her fragile mental condition.”
However, on May 23, after a day of giving testimony, sheriffs brought Ejigu back to the remand centre, instead of the mental hospital.
The next day, the judges determined she was not in a fit mental state to testify. She was able to complete her evidence the day after that.