Appeal for B.C. woman convicted in 8-year-old daughter's death dismissed
Warning: Disturbing content.
VANCOUVER -- The appeal of a B.C. mother convicted of second-degree murder in the death of an eight-year-old girl has been dismissed.
Lisa Batstone learned the decision Friday relating to the suffocating death of her daughter, Teagan.
The appellant had alleged the judge in her trial was wrong to conclude she intended the death, claiming a misapprehension of evidence and citing speculation as to how the offence actually occurred. She and her legal team said there was a failure in her trial to explain how evidence supported the argument that she had intended to kill Teagan.
But the panel of judges assigned to review her case did not side with Batstone, writing in their ruling the only thing the judge misunderstood was concerning how long it would take to die by smothering, but that this wouldn't have changed the outcome in the ruling that she intended to do so.
The three appellate court judges wrote in a ruling posted online Friday morning that the judge did make two "erroneous conclusions" regarding how the death occurred, but called these errors "harmless," and again, said they had no impact on the ultimate ruling.
And lastly, they said, "the trial judge did not find that every after-the-fact action was consistent with intent, rather she properly considered actions relevant to intent and the defences raised by the appellant."
Teagan’s father, Gabe Batstone, expressed relief the judges denied the appeal, but said his family must now turn its attention to the possibility of another appeal, this time to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“The process when it comes to the murder of children never ends, as long as the person who murdered them is alive, frankly,” he said.
Young Teagan was suffocated with a plastic bag on Dec. 10, 2014.
Batstone didn't deny being behind her daughter's death, but the trial judge was tasked with determining whether she meant to cause death, and thus whether it was a case of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Her trial judge found she did have the requisite intent to prove the greater charge. During the trial, the court heard from 36 witnesses, including some who testified that Batstone appeared increasingly erratic in the weeks leading up to Teagan's death.
The court heard that Teagan lived with her mother in Surrey, B.C., and that her parents separated when the girl was two.
Gabe and Lisa Batstone divorced in 2010, and the court heard their relationship continued to be strained though Teagan frequently visited with her father.
The court heard that Lisa Batstone felt "great resentment" toward Gabe over the divorce, and hadn't yet come to terms with the breakup of their marriage.
Teagan's mother was dealing with several other stressors as well, prior to the girl's death, including mental illness, and a falling out with a friend that led to Batstone leaving her church. She'd suffered a back injury, was facing financial challenges, dealing with her mother's failing health and had just lost a parenting co-ordinator she and Gabe had used for years.
Still, none of her actions suggested suicide or the harm of her daughter. In fact, she'd been looking into after-school care for Teagan for January 2015, and made a dentist appointment for the girl for the day after she was killed.
But something apparently changed, and Teagan was killed during a living room "camp out" the mother and daughter had in their home.
Following the death, the court heard, Batstone wrote a letter about what she had done and why, and posted notes in her home to her ex-husband with messages including, "You win." She emailed Gabe and Teagan's school, saying her daughter had the flu.
During her trial, it was shown that Batstone's internet search history included her ex-husband and his new wife, and other evidence gathered including her own statements to police suggested she may have been thinking of ending her life.
Teagan's death became known after her mother, who had put the girl's body in her car, got stuck in a ditch and had to call for help. She asked a nearby resident to call 911, and told that person her child had died, court documents show.
Teagan and her mother were found by first responders in the trunk of the car, where Batstone sat, cradling her daughter.
A transcript of Batstone's interrogation shows she told a police sergeant, "I was just trying to save her from being in pain … I thought I was going to die with her. We could both be in no more pain."
Batstone and her lawyers now have 60 days to file an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which would then decide whether to take up the case.
According to Vancouver criminal lawyer Sarah Leamon, who reviewed the facts presented in the original trial and the B.C. Court of Appeal's reasons for upholding the decision, an appeal to the highest court in the country is not a certainty.
"In this case, where we have a unanimous decision from the Court of Appeal that's upholding the previous decision of the trial judge, I think the grounds to seek that leave to appeal are probably more minimal than they would be in other cases,” Leamon said.
Regardless of what happens next, Gabe Batstone will always hold a place in his heart for Teagan.
“There was a beautiful eight-year-old who had seven decades, at least, of life left to live,” he said. “To be married, to go to university, to get a job, to have a first kiss. To live her life. And that’s gone.”