December 06, 2015 - 11:30 AM
SAINT-JEROME, Que. - Guy Turcotte was found guilty on Sunday of second-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of his two young children more than six years ago.
It was Turcotte's second trial on two charges of first-degree murder in the slayings of Olivier, 5, and Anne-Sophie, 3. He was found not criminally responsible in 2011.
The 11 jurors returned with a verdict on their seventh day of deliberations.
Turcotte, 43, admitted to causing the deaths but his lawyer was seeking a verdict of not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder.
A muffled "Yes" could be heard in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. It came from the direction of Isabelle Gaston, the mother of the slain children.
Gaston spoke to reporters after the verdict and said she was relieved by the jury's decision.
"Today, I hope the souls of Olivier and Anne-Sophie can be at peace," she said.
"For me, this is the day I can begin to rest. Since their deaths, I've had the impression my life has been a struggle. Now, it's all about healing."
But Gaston said her life will never be the same, even with the verdict.
"Tomorrow, I will not wake up with children."
Turcotte's sentencing arguments will take place on Dec. 18.
A conviction on second-degree murder carries a sentence of life imprisonment but the accused can be freed after a certain number of years.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Vincent asked the jurors if they had any recommendations for the minimum number of years Turcotte should serve but they said they had none.
The Crown contended that Turcotte killed his children because he could not handle the notion of being replaced by another man in their lives after he and Gaston had broken up.
Crown prosecutors successfully appealed the original verdict in November 2013 and the country's highest court announced early the following year it wouldn't hear Turcotte's appeal of that decision.
The jurors had the choice of four possible verdicts: not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder or guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Turcotte's children were stabbed a total of 46 times and found in their beds with wounds to their upper bodies — Olivier was attacked 27 times and Anne-Sophie another 19. Autopsy results showed the boy tried to defend himself from the attack.
The judge told the jurors that to find Turcotte non criminally responsible they had to believe that he had proven he was incapable of judging the nature or quality of his acts or of knowing whether the acts were wrong.
Their deaths in February 2009 came less than a month after Turcotte's marriage to Gaston ended once the latter's infidelity had been exposed.
His criminal case — and the verdict at that first trial — infuriated many Quebecers and led to various protests.
The case was also among several across Canada to spur federal legislation, which became law in 2014 and was aimed at making it harder for those found not criminally responsible to gain their freedom.
The law gives the court new powers to create a new high-risk category that would hold mentally ill offenders longer and make it far more difficult for them to leave psychiatric facilities.
It also keeps victims' families in the loop about the status of such individuals and alert them when they are released.
Turcotte testified in his own defence, telling jurors he could only remember the night in snippets or "flashes."
He said he recalled attacking his son and hearing him whimper but couldn't stop himself from attacking either child.
Turcotte said he had been reading emails between Gaston and her new lover and made a decision he wanted to commit suicide.
The trial heard the couple had a rocky relationship spanning a decade.
Gaston told the trial that Turcotte warned her in a telephone conversation on the day the children were killed that if she wanted a war, she would get one.
She described their marriage as toxic but also noted that Turcotte was not a bad father.
"I never thought he could kill them," she repeated a number of times on the stand.
Witnesses who encountered Turcotte at the hospital following his arrest told jurors he asked not to receive treatment, with a nurse testifying he said he killed the children to spite his wife.
"He said he wanted to make her angry and that the way to do so was to take away from her what was most precious to her," Chantal Duhamel told the jury.
The trial came down to duelling expert witnesses.
Experts on both sides agreed that Turcotte was suffering from mental issues — an adjustment disorder with symptoms of anxiety and depression.
They differed on his state of mind, however, with defence experts saying Turcotte was obsessed with suicide, mentally ill and incapable of telling right from wrong. Prosecution experts countered that he was in control and responsible for the acts.
Pierre Bleau, a Crown witness, said someone suffering from an adjustment disorder doesn't lose contact with reality, the ability to reflect or a sense of responsibility for his actions.
Defence witness Dominique Bourget, a forensic psychiatrist with a specialty in domestic homicides, testified Turcotte was suffering from "a major mental illness" that prevented him from developing an intent to kill.
Another psychiatrist, Louis Morissette, testified Turcotte killed his kids to prevent them from witnessing his eventual suicide and said that logic was faulty and the result of a sick mind. Morissette said the actions were the product of his troubled mental state and his suicidal thoughts and that Turcotte's consumption of methanol was a marginal factor.
The Crown and defence disagreed on when the accused consumed the windshield washer fluid and the impact it had on his actions.
Defence experts, as well as Turcotte, said he drank the fluid before the slayings in an attempt to commit suicide and then decided to kill his children to spare them finding his body the next day.
The Crown agreed that Turcotte wanted to commit suicide, but said he killed the children before consuming the liquid — perhaps an hour before his arrest, according to one expert. Jurors heard it was impossible to know with certainty when and how much methanol was ingested.
Defence attorney Pierre Poupart warned jurors from the outset finding someone guilty for acts committed by someone not of sound mind would have legal consequences.
"Condemning a person who is not criminally responsible would shake the legal foundations and strike a blow to the integrity of the judicial system," Poupart said.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015