Ex-doc­tor ap­peals pa­role el­i­gi­bil­ity

Sen­tenced for killing his two chil­dren in 2009

National Post (Latest Edition) - - CANADA - Stephanie Marin

MON­TREAL• A lawyer for an ex- car­di­ol­o­gist who mur­dered his two chil­dren ar­gued in court Tues­day his client should not have to serve 17 years in prison be­fore be­com­ing el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for pa­role.

Guy Tur­cotte fa­tally stabbed his three- year- old daugh­ter and five- year- old son in 2009.

He was found not crim­i­nal ly re­spon­si­ble a this first trial and was sent to a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal in Mon­treal and re­leased in De­cem­ber 2012.

An ap­peals court over­turned the ver­dict and Tur­cotte had to stand trial again. He was found guilty in 2015 of sec­ond- de­gree mur­der and later sen­tenced to life in prison with no chance of pa­role for 17 years.

De­fence lawyer Pierre Poupart said Tues­day the judge who handed down the sen­tence did not take into ac­count Tur­cotte’s men­tal state at the time of the killings.

And Poupart said he has never seen in his lengthy ca­reer such una­nim­ity among ex­perts when it comes to eval­u­at­ing a per­son’s men­tal dis­tress.

Poupart said sev­eral times his client “does not pose a risk to the pub­lic.”

“The per­son the most ter­ror­ized by what he ( Tur­cotte) did is him­self,” the lawyer told the panel of three Que­bec Court of Ap­peal jus­tices.

The Crown con­tended dur­ing the 2015 trial that Tur­cotte killed his chil­dren as an act of vengeance against his then- es­tranged wife, Is­abelle Gas­ton, be­cause she was hav­ing an af­fair with one of his friends and be­cause he could not han­dle the no­tion of be­ing re­placed by an­other man in their lives.

De­fence lawyers said Tur­cotte was sui­ci­dal at the time and drank wind­shield washer fluid to kill him­self. They ar­gued that when he felt he was dy­ing, he de­cided to take his chil­dren with him so they would not have to dis­cover his body.

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.

De­fence ex­perts said Tur­cotte was in­ca­pable of telling right from wrong, while prose­cu­tion ex­perts coun­tered he was in con­trol and re­spon­si­ble for the acts.

The Crown and de­fence also dis­agreed on when the ac­cused con­sumed the wind­shield washer fluid and the im­pact it had on his ac­tions.

The Crown said Tur­cotte wanted to com­mit sui­cide but that he killed the chil­dren be­fore con­sum­ing the liq­uid.

One of the three ap­peals court jus­tices, Jus­tice Al­lan Hil­ton, told Poupart on Tues­day the “real vic­tim tar­geted by these acts is Mme. Gas­ton,” the chil­dren’s mother.

Gas­ton, who was present in court, told re­porters she was not im­pressed with the de­fence’s ar­gu­ments.

“I’m still con­vinced that 17 years is not a lot for killing two chil­dren just be­cause of a sep­a­ra­tion,” she said.

Crown pros­e­cu­tor Rene Ver­ret ar­gued the 17- year min­i­mum is in line with so­ci­ety’s val­ues. “There are no words to de­scribe the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing these of­fences,” he said.

The ap­peals court panel took the mat­ter into de­lib­er­a­tion.

GRA­HAM HUGHES / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Ex- car­di­ol­o­gist Guy Tur­cotte is ap­peal­ing the 17 years he must wait be­fore ap­ply­ing for pa­role.

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