Calgary man convicted of murder in child's death wants second opinion on mental state

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CALGARY — A sentencing hearing for a Calgary man convicted of second-degree murder in the beating death of his girlfriend's three-year-old daughter was delayed Wednesday after he demanded a second opinion on his psychiatric health.

Ivy Wick was injured on Sept. 27, 2017, and died in hospital of head and brain injuries eight days later.

An autopsy revealed she suffered blunt force trauma, which prompted homicide investigators to take over the case.

Justin Bennett, who is now 28, was charged a year later following a confession to undercover police officers. He told them he had become angry after being interrupted by the child, smashed her in the head, threw her against a wall and then tripped her.

Bennett's lawyer told the court Wednesday that his client complained that Dr. Reilly Smith, the psychiatrist who did his assessment, didn't like Bennett and showed bias in his report.

"He detected a real sense of animosity towards him ... and Dr. Smith's perceived animosity became even more pronounced on numerous occasions when Dr. Smith asked my client to discuss the allegations and circumstances surrounding the death of Ivy Wick," said Alan Fay.

"He tells me further that very early in the process that Dr. Smith conveyed to him that the ultimate assessment would be a negative one and he would likely be found a significant danger."

Fay asked Court of Queen's Bench Justice Blair Nixon to order a second assessment because his client couldn't afford to pay for an independent report on his own.

Crown Prosecutor Tom Spark told court he would consent to the delay and agreed to have Smith attend court to be questioned on the matter but opposed another psychiatric examination.

"It's a slippery slope to start ordering second opinions to the hospital every time an offender is displeased with a report and would only contribute further to overwhelming and stretching an already thin system," Spark said.

The case has been set over until Oct. 8 at which time a date is to be set to question the original doctor about his diagnosis.

Fay told reporters outside court that he's familiar with the doctor and has always found him to be fair and competent, but noted he was following his client's instructions.

"I haven't seen this in over 32 years in these courts. I've certainly never done it myself," he said.

But Fay said the psychiatric evaluation could have a major impact during sentencing.

"The issue at sentencing is the period of parole ineligibility. The impact of the psychiatric report frequently does impact on that particular aspect of sentencing."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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