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Cameras in court?

Manitoba's first-ever televised criminal proceeding Wednesday offered viewers a striking contrast -- explicit facts about a violent relationship presented in a staid, formal manner.

Cassandra Knott was acquitted of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of her abusive husband, Orzias Knott, as a television camera focused for 45 minutes on Court of Queen's Bench Justice Shane Perlmutter.

"It is understood and so ordered that the sole image to be captured by the camera ... is the image of me as the presiding judge," Perlmutter said before he started delivering his verdict.

Photos

[Judge finds Cassandra Knott not guilty]

A Manitoba woman has been found not guilty of killing her husband in the province's first-ever televised criminal proceeding.

The accused, her lawyers and the Crown attorney were never shown as Perlmutter read excerpts from his written decision.

He frequently looked directly into the camera being shared by media outlets and set off to one side of the large courtroom.

As soon as he finished, Perlmutter ordered the camera turned off. Knott began weeping openly and hugged her lawyers.

Wednesday's verdict was part of a pilot project in Manitoba. Cameras will also be allowed to record a Court of Appeal hearing later his month, including arguments from lawyers, as part of an effort to give the public a greater understanding of the justice system.

Hearings before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Court of Appeal are routinely open to cameras, but Manitoba is pushing the issue a little further.

It is setting aside a courtroom where proceedings below the Appeals Court level will be televised.

There will still be exemptions to protect people's privacy. Witness testimony, jury trials and family court cases won't be televised.

Throughout his verdict, Perlmutter calmly read over the litany of violence Knott had suffered at the hands of her husband.

She had been to hospitals and women's shelters several times since 2008, the trial had been told. She had been almost routinely punched and slapped, and sometimes hit with objects including a clock.

A psychiatrist testified Knott developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

Knott testified that on Feb. 18, 2011, her husband had been drinking and was beating her once again inside her home. She told him to leave and he went after her, court was told.

She grabbed a steak knife on a nearby counter and stabbed him once in the chest.

The Crown argued Knott acted out of revenge and could have called 911, but Perlmutter ruled she acted in self-defence.

"Escape was not an option ... the deceased was coming toward her."

"Given that the accused was facing this imminent, violent attack, I find that the accused had a reasonable basis to believe that she had to defend herself."

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