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Chilliwack man charged with Boxing Day murder found fit to stand trial

David Miller, a Chilliwack man charged with the second-degree murder of his wife, has been found fit to stand trial, despite his ever-diminishing mental abilities due to Huntington's Dementia.

However, given the slow pace of court hearings Miller may yet be found unfit to stand trial

Supreme Court Justice Brian Joyce said in his Sept. 28 ruling that Miller's "cognitive capacity" could fall so low before a trial is over that "a finding of unfitness would be appropriate."

"The issue can be re-visited if counsel or the court believes that to be the case, but I am not satisfied at this time that Mr. Miller is unfit to stand trial."

Crown and defence lawyers were scheduled to meet next Friday to fix a date for trial.

Joyce said in his reasons for judgment that, based on the evidence before him, he could not find that Miller is unable, on account of mental disorder, to understand the court proceedings against him or understand the possible consequences, two of the three tests of fitness for trial.

"Mr. Miller understands that he is facing a charge that he murdered his wife," Joyce said. "He understands that he is facing a trial to determine whether he is guilty of that offence, and he understands that he facing serious potential negative consequences as a result."

More problematic for Joyce, was the third test of fitness: the accused's ability to communicate with defence counsel and so have a "meaningful participation" in the trial.

Defence lawyer Paul McMurray had submitted that Miller's inability to communicate his mental state at the time of the offence made it nearly impossible for expert witnesses to determine whether Miller could have formed the intent necessary for conviction on the murder charge, or whether he should be found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

Crown counsel Henry Waldock made no submission on Miller's fitness to stand trial, other than the "low threshold" set by law.

According to the court document, Miller left the hospital where he was being treated for Huntington's Dementia on Boxing Day, 2009. When he arrived at his Ryder Lake home, at some point he took a knife from the kitchen and went to his wife Susan's bedroom where he stabbed her to death.

"He told his daughter what he had done and told her to call the police," the document states. "Mr. Miller then sat on the deck outside the house and waited for the police to arrive."

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