A B.C. man who literally stabbed his wife in the back on Easter Monday in 2017 was on too intense of a prescription drug cocktail to have done so voluntarily, the provincial supreme court ruled.
Justice Warren Milman found Jean-Luc Perignon was “effectively asleep” when he descended from his second floor Sunshine Coast bedroom around 10 p.m. on April 17, 2017 and stuck a kitchen knife in his wife’s back as she went to enter her own ground floor room.
The two were sleeping separately because Perignon was experiencing severe insomnia. He’d had trouble sleeping since he was a teenager and had treated it bromazepam, a drug in the benzodiazepine family, up until the summer of 2016. It was then that the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons passed new regulations prohibiting the prescription of benzodiazepines along with opioids.
The problem for Perignon was that he also relied heavily on morphine to treat the pain from two vehicle crashes he’d been in, one of which left him with a spinal fracture. Because his wife had just been laid off, Perignon said he chose to stick with the opioids and drop the sleeping medication, so he could make it through work days himself.
Over the next nine or so months, Perignon and his doctor tried out a multitude of different medications to try and replace the benzodiazepine and get him sleeping. None of them worked, so they finally resorted to a sedative hypnotic known as zopiclone. It also poses some dangers when combined with opioids.
Perignon started out on 5 milligrams of the new drug. On the day of the stabbing, he had taken 26.25 mg of it – far beyond a recommended dose, according a psychiatrist who testified at the trial.
Perignon was also taking a dangerously high amount of morphine, multiple psychiatrists said. Current health guidelines describe 90 mg as high-risk, and Perignon was taking 400 mg a day. One psychiatrist testified that for someone who wasn’t use to opioids, a dose of 200-300 mg can be fatal.
Perignon told the court that on the night of April 17, 2017 he had no memory between putting himself to bed and standing over his wife while she lay screaming in pain. He said as soon as he realized what had happened he ran back to his bedroom and locked himself inside, fearing he could be a further danger to his loved ones. He then called 911.
In his Jan. 27 decision, Milman remarked that Perignon had no history of violence and that his testimony was largely reliable. He concluded that Perignon was in a severely impaired state of mind at a minimum, and more likely a state of non-mental disorder automatism, or “effectively asleep.”
Perignon was found not guilty.