Canadian Court Acquits College Student After He Takes Magic Mushrooms, Breaks Into the Home of Professor, And Physically Assaults Her

A judge in Calgary, Canada has handed down what may be the first acquittal to a violent crime for a student who attacked a professor under the influence of magic mushroom or Psilocybin. Matthew Brown entered the home of Professor Janet Hamnett entirely naked and high on magic mushrooms. He then attacked her with a broomstick, leaving her with severe injuries. Nevertheless, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Michele Hollins found him intoxicated to the point of “automatism” and acquitted him.

In January 2018, Brown was drinking with some friends and they began taking magic mushrooms. He had previously taken magic mushrooms and, on this occasion, is assumed to have digested about 2.5 grams. He began to act odd and went back and forth to bed before dashing out naked around 3:45 am. Fifteen minutes later, he burst into the home of Hamnett and began to attack her. She eventually was able to lock herself in the bathroom and then escape to a neighbor’s home.

A student at Mount Royal University, Brown, 29, was charged with assault with a weapon and break-and-enter. He is a hockey player at the school where Hamnett teaches public relations. However, police say that the school connection was a coincidence.

Brown was apologetic throughout the trial and after the verdict. He had no history of violence.

In the United States, it is highly doubtful that Brown would have been given an acquittal. Drunk drivers and drug users are routinely sentenced for their offenses despite their intoxication or physical condition. However, the court in this case concluded that the magic mushrooms robbed Brown of volitional choice and control.

The case stands in contrast with research suggesting that magic mushroom make people less likely to commit violent crimes. Yet, some cases of bizarre assaults have been reported.

What do you think?

If you agree with the court on the loss of control (and magic mushrooms are legal), should Brown still be sentenced for these crimes?

54 thoughts on “Canadian Court Acquits College Student After He Takes Magic Mushrooms, Breaks Into the Home of Professor, And Physically Assaults Her”

  1. To answer the question, the law allows punishment of people who commit crimes under the influence of alcohol. If the legal hallucinogenic mushrooms weren’t a prescribed medical therapy, it seems to me that the defendant voluntarily became intoxicated, and must shoulder responsibility for his acts while in that state.

    However, the Supreme Cout of Canada acquitted Kenneth Parks a while back for allegedly driving over 12 miles in his sleep, opening the the door to his wife’s parents’ house with a key, entering their home, killing his mother-in-law and assaulting his father-in-law with a tire iron – in his sleep. Incredibly, the court didn’t acquit Parks under an insanity plea, but after testimony by several neurologists that a neurological disorder caused him to commit those acts in his sleep.

    I wonder if the Parks case didn’t influence the judge in Matthew Brown’s case that his acts weren’t criminal insanity, but a form of automatism. A New York judge acquitted a police officer who shot an African-American child to death on the defense’s theory that the officer acted while suffering a rare form of epilepsy called “automatism of Penfield”. He was released on condition of receiving psychotherapy and with an injunction against ever being employed as a police officer or carrying a firearm.

    1. Voluntary intoxication is a defense to specific intent crimes, but not for general intent. It also depends on States, most have adopted MPC…

      Assault is specific intent.

      If dude was high as a kite, puffing the magic dragon, yada yada…didn’t form the mens rea intent plus concurrence with actus reus.

      1. More serious question, how the h*ll do you know where your professor lives??? Lol. Must be small town living, safety, security…here’s my address and personal line.

        Professors don’t do that these days, for obvious reasons.

        I had one professor give out his personal line, I was sitting there in class, like oh…bad, bad, bad idea…you think some of these students can control themselves…I.Dont.Think.So.

        It’s like a student who comes to offices hours, has no real question about topics in the class, but then pretends they have questions, so they’re Noticed and Known.

        I told a peer once, you know, I think Professor gets lunch at this time, and then he has office hours afterward…you don’t have to chase him down the hall…just wait like 30 minutes, and then go to designated timeslot.

        The response? I need Professor to Know I care, so that he remembers me, and gives me rec letter, and better grade.

        My response? Well, if you want to piss him off, stop him from getting lunch, and take up all his lunch time, that’ll do the trick. later!

        These students be cray cray.

        1. Canada’s interpretation of the M’Naghten Rule and the automatism defense (R v Parks) probably figured in Matthew Brown’s favor. Canada, unlike Great Britain, doesn’t consider automatism under the M’Naghten Rule’s insanity criteria, but as an element of lack of voluntariness,

          1. Ah, M’Naghten, yes, indeed. I always thought it was with a “u” M’Naughten. I dunno. It’s not, haha 😉

            Why is it “nature and quality”…? Who came up with that? That’s what I want to know.

      2. New York found a guy guilty of murdering his mother while hallucinating on PCP. His voluntary ingestion of a drug he’d habitually used and knew would incline him to violence persuaded the jury to convict. No insanity plea.

  2. I was going to mention Kenneth Parks the Canadian man who was acquitted on appeal after allegedly driving 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) in his sleep, then murdering his mother-in-law. It turns out, however, that well over 60 cases of “homicidal somnabulism” are alleged to have happened, and Parks is not the only killer who has successfully claimed to have killed in his sleep as a defense against charges of homicide.

  3. In the United States, it is highly doubtful that Brown would have been given an acquittal. Drunk drivers and drug users are routinely sentenced for their offenses despite their intoxication or physical condition.

    In some instances in the US non-violent/unarmed naked persons in altered states of mind or in mental distress are summarily executed by government agents.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2217235/Gil-Collar-University-police-officer-shot-naked-student-WAS-carrying-baton-pepper-spray.html

    https://www.11alive.com/article/news/local/robert-olsen-trial-anthony-hill-murder/85-e10d69a3-fdc3-4c4c-b818-4499b5a53c42

    If you agree with the court on the loss of control (and magic mushrooms are legal), should Brown still be sentenced for these crimes?

    Yes

  4. I think the ingestion of the mushrooms would have meant he would not be charged with premeditation, but he should still be criminally liable for the crime.

    Is that all you have to do to get off the hook in Canada? Have enough shrooms in your system? Are they not criminally liable if they rape or kill someone while under the influence?

    He took an illegal drug and committed a crime.

    Acquittal was neither leniency nor mercy. It was injustice.

    1. Canada rules that an offense must be voluntary for the defendant to be held guilty. Their rules for that include acts for which an insanity defense under the M’Naghten Rule (an “insanity plea”) would be the appropriate defense in other jurisdictions. If Brown had dropped shrooms and assaulted that woman in New York, he’d be wearing orange coveralls now.

  5. Substance ingestion is an innocuous and victimless constitutional right and freedom per the 9th Amendment.

    Bodily injury is a constitutional statute violation.

  6. Forensic clinical psychologist Barbara R. Kirwin describes (in her book The Mad, the Bad and the Innocent) a young man in New York who murdered his mother under the influence of the recreational drug PCP (“Angel Dust”).

    The court found that while this killer may not have been cognizant of his actions while intoxicated, his voluntary and long-standing abuse of the illegal drug PCP made him guilty of the crimes he did while so intoxicated. This, despite the fact that the state of New York is a “M’Naghten Rule” jurisdiction in which inablility to distinguish wrong from right can be used as a defense against criminal charges.

  7. My mushroom trip (I took almost the exact same dose) made me incredibly more peaceful and empathetic.

    The U.S. needs to end its ridiculous ban on research of hallucinogens (which preliminary results showed to be far less dangerous to the user or others compared to more acceptable substances like alcohol, marijuana, or opioids, and likely treatments to many mental health disorders).

    Once we understand the science, we can know whether a person should be excused from behavior that they couldn’t reasonably predict. My guess is that an incident like this on shrooms is quite unusual (perhaps the alcohol made it worse). If that’s true, I’m fine with this decision.

    1. The U.S. needs to end its ridiculous ban on research of hallucinogens (which preliminary results showed to be far less dangerous to the user or others compared to more acceptable substances like alcohol, marijuana, or opioids, and likely treatments to many mental health disorders).

      Well this is where we are in the cycle. I could have copied and pasted this from something written thirty years ago and 25 years before that.

    2. While I persoally think intentionally taking any hallucinogen without someone with you to prevent you from doing what Matthew Brown did falls under “depraved indifference” and is punishable, that’s not a legal opinion. Under Canadian law, judges are required to offer defendants like Mr. Brown (and their defense attorneys) the automatism defense… and that’s why Matthew Brown’s back on the streets.

  8. Intentional ingestion of magic mushrooms with alcohol is just that: intentional. The factual finding a crime ensued should still result in conviction. Let the judge set the appropriate sentence.

    1. Forensic clinical psychologist Barbara R. Kirwin describes (in her book The Mad, the Bad and the Innocent) a young man in New York who murdered his mother under the influence of the recreational drug PCP (“Angel Dust”).

      The court found that while this killer may not have been cognizant of his actions while intoxicated, his voluntary and long-standing abuse of the illegal drug PCP made him guilty of the crimes he did while so intoxicated. This, despite the fact that the state of New York is a “M’Naghten Rule” jurisdiction in which inablility to distinguish wrong from right can be used as a defense against criminal charges.

      1. New York State’s juries are not tolerant of such defenses, particularly some affluent counties where such defenses were “in” before it was all the rage. I think we look at it as you may use any defense but it does not mean you walk to get a do-over.

        Take for instance Collin Ferguson the gunman on the Long Island Railroad many years ago who slaughtered commuters coming home from work. He was his own defense attorney and went from standing in front of the witness stand asking questions to himself (an empty chair), and then occupying that seat to give the answer. He went on for several hours doing this as he blamed society’s view of him as causal in the massacre.

        He then proceeded to take advantage of his accusers clearly pointing to him (seated at the defendant’s table) as “the man that was on the LIRR who did the shooting…..” He objected repeatedly (as his own attorney) to these people doing this as prejudicial as he was “defense counsel–not the killer.” The trial took place in Nassau County, a county where “insanity pleas” no matter how outrageously acted out, don’t fly.

        The jury took I believe less than an hour to convict him!

        In this instance, insane or under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or the “God defense” will not fly. As a result, the crazies know not to commit crime(s) in Nassau County as the juries are unsympathetic and you will be tried by a “jury of your peers” and receive a very swift guilty verdict with stiff sentencing and penalties.

  9. This is the same type of judge who would rule that a 17 year-old football player who got lucky with his 24 year-old female English teacher was a “child,” who had been “abused,” and sentence the evil wench to 20 years in prison. 🤣

    1. The serial offender Mary Kay Letourneau served seven years in toto for bedding down an early adolescent. The girls get discounts.

  10. Obviously, the court should punish the person or persons who are responsible for forcing this innocent, young student to ingest these magic mushrooms. He is the real victim.

    1. Right on! Since the court found him not to be responsible, it must have been someone else. If not the pusher, then maybe the dealer, or the grower, or the land owner where the mushrooms were grown. Or simply it was Bush’s fault!

    2. He’s the true definition of victim!! He can remember how many mushrooms he ingested, which was critical to his defense, but he can’t remember why he broke into a woman’s house at 4:00 a.m. stark naked! I hate it when that happens! 🤣

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