Dr. Stephen Hucker was called as the second defence witness in the murder trial for Christopher Garnier, which is now in its fourth week at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.
Hucker is a psychiatrist with experience in the area of forensic and correctional psychiatry.
He was qualified as an expert and is able to give opinion evidence in assessing and diagnosing medical disorders and evidence of paraphilia. In particular, sexual masochism – which includes asphyxiophilia and erotic asphyxiation.
Garnier is accused of Catherine Campbell, 36, in September 2015.
Campbell was a member of the Truro Police Service and a served as a volunteer firefighter for a decade before her death. She was off-duty at the time of the alleged murder.
The Crown has alleged Garnier struck Campbell on the head and strangled her before using a green bin to dispose of her body in a wooded area under the Macdonald Bridge.
Defence lawyer Joel Pink has said Campbell’s death was an unfortunate accident that occurred during rough sex, which was initiated by her.
WATCH: Video of a man pushing a pushing a green bin from a McCully Street home
Garnier, 30, testified this week that he met Campbell at the Halifax Alehouse on Sept. 11, 2015. Once back at his friend’s apartment on McCully Street, Garnier told the court Campbell asked him if he was into domination and requested that he choke and slap her.
Garnier has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder and improperly interfering with a dead body.
Garnier a quiet, unassuming person, shows no signs of personality disorder
Hucker told the court that he interviewed Garnier twice at a correctional facility in the Spring of 2016. In total, Hucker says he spent about 6.5 hours with Garnier to perform a psychiatric assessment.
The expert said that Garnier showed no signs of agitation and was fully cooperative during their interviews. He said Garnier was preoccupied with the offences and at a loss to explain why he didn’t call 911.
Hucker said Garnier showed no signs of personality disorder & that he comes across as a quiet, unassuming person, a people-pleaser and someone who would back away from confrontation.
WATCH: Christopher Garnier describes Catherine Campbell’s last breath during a police interrogation in September 2015
Expert diagnosed Garnier with PTSD
Hucker said Garnier had a prolonged period of grief following the death of his grandmother and was depressed. He said Garnier played down any problems with alcohol, even though he was charged with an offence that occurred when he had been drinking and that he was having trouble remembering.
When Pink questioned Hucker about erotic asphyxiation, he explained it was form of sexual masochism in which sexual acts are performed which are humiliating or painful.
Hucker said Garnier’s account of what happened on the night Campbell died – that she asked to be choked and slapped – amounts to him facilitating erotic asphyxiation for Campbell.
Hucker said people who regularly practice erotic asphyxiation often take safety precautions, like using a safe word and having a partner they trust. He testified harm can be caused during erotic asphyxiation and that someone could become unconscious quickly, possibly without giving warning signs.
Hucker told the court that he believes Garnier suffered from acute stress disorder following Campbell’s death and that one of the possible symptoms of the disorder is memory loss. He also told the seven-man, seven-woman jury that he has diagnosed Garnier with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
When asked by the defence about malingering or fabricating symptoms of mental or physical disorders, Hucker said he believes Garnier’s symptoms are genuine and that he has some symptoms that a lot of people may not know about. As part of his report, Hucker says he diagnosed Garnier with PTSD.
Testimony continues Thursday
The Crown raised an objection during Hucker’s testimony and the jury was ultimately sent home early Wednesday so the judge and the lawyers could discuss the issue.
Since the jury was not present for those discussions, what was said in the courtroom at that time is covered under a publication ban and cannot be reported.
Testimony in the case is scheduled to resume Thursday at 9 a.m.
In total, five weeks have been set aside to hear the trial, with a verdict expected before Christmas.
Crown points out inconsistencies during cross examination this week
During cross-examination on Tuesday, Crown Attorney Christine Driscoll tried to point out inconsistencies between what Garnier told police during his 9.5-hour interrogation and what he told the jury hearing his case.
Driscoll asked Garnier why he told police during his interrogation that he heard Campbell take her last breaths but testified this week that the noise he heard was air leaving her lungs.
She also questioned the fact that Garnier told the court he had his arm on Campbell’s neck when he slapped her quickly three times. Driscoll pointed out that Garnier was right-handed and said that it would have been awkward for him to do that with his left hand if he was laying beside Campbell.
Driscoll asked Garnier if there was a struggle on the pullout couch on the night Campbell died. Garnier said no.
She also said he came up with an explanation that explains what happened and entirely places that blame on Campbell. Garnier replied that he was not trying to blame Catherine, adding that she was nice to him that night.