The Crown is appealing a verdict that found Guy Turcotte not criminally responsible for killing his young children in 2009. The children's mother says she is confident the case will receive a new trial.
The case of a former Quebec doctor who killed his young children returned to court Monday with the Crown appealing a verdict that found him not criminally responsible.The Crown wants the judgment annulled and a new trial ordered in a case that has stoked public sentiment like few others in the province.During his highly publicized first-degree murder trial, Guy Turcotte admitted to repeatedly stabbing his kids — three-year-old Anne-Sophie and five-year-old Olivier, but denied criminal intent.The trial heard from numerous witnesses, including Turcotte himself. He testified he didn't remember committing the act and had been experiencing blackouts the night of the slayings in February 2009.Medical experts for the defence testified he was suffering from the mental effects of the breakup of his marriage.The not-criminally-responsible verdict meant Turcotte was unable to know, at the time, that he was doing something wrong. The case helped spur new federal legislation aimed at making it harder for those found not criminally responsible to gain their freedom.Turcotte was eventually deemed fit for release from a mental institution, where he'd stayed following a total of 46 months in custody.The former cardiologist was not in a packed courtroom on Monday as the Crown argued the trial judge should never have offered a jury the not-criminally-responsible option.Turcotte drank washer fluid later that evening in 2009 in an attempt to kill himself. Crown prosecutor Michel Pennou said a not-criminally-responsible verdict should be reserved for cases of mental illness, not ones like this where a suicide attempt might have triggered an after-the-fact blackout.Turcotte's ex-wife, Isabelle Gaston, sat in the front row with her mother Monday, listening to the Crown and scribbling notes. She told reporters she's had months to immerse herself in the arguments and jurisprudence — an obsession of sorts for Gaston, an emergency room physician by training.Gaston said she's confident of a new trial after hearing the Crown's case."Our justice system should reflect our democracy and what we think as a people," she said. "And I think what happened in my life should be repaired."This injustice is not against me, but foremost for Olivier and Anne-Sophie and all Canadians who feel it's not normal that he's out after such a short time."Pennou also argues the jury wasn't properly instructed and that the judge did not sufficiently review the evidence with the jury."Is the simple presence of a mental problem enough to open the door to a not-criminally-responsible verdict?" Pennou said. "My response to that would be no."Under questioning from one of the three Quebec Court of Appeal justices hearing the appeal, Pennou conceded it was a mistake not to raise the objections during the trial.But Pennou told the judges that just because the Crown made the mistake didn't mean the judges could follow suit.The defence has rejected those arguments, contending that the Crown had plenty of time to raise objections before the jury retired to consider a verdict.Lawyer Pierre Poupart argued both sides agreed to the parameters of the trial.He said a jury came to a reasonable verdict and it was important the appeals court not serve as a kind of 13th juror.The defence says the court should reject the appeal, but that any new trial should be on the much-reduced charge of manslaughter. The Crown wants a new trial on the original charges: two counts of first-degree murder.