Turcotte to appeal second-degree murder conviction in childrens' deaths
Guy Turcotte arrives at the courthouse in Saint Jerome, Que., Friday, December 4, 2015. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 6, 2016 11:04AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 6, 2016 3:00PM EST
MONTREAL -- A former Quebec doctor is appealing his murder conviction in the stabbing deaths of his two children as he seeks a third trial.
Guy Turcotte was found guilty of second-degree murder by a jury on Dec. 6 in the 2009 slayings of Olivier, 5, and Anne-Sophie, 3.
In its appeal notice dated Tuesday, the defence argues that Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Vincent erred in law on more than one occasion in his instructions to the jurors.
Turcotte's legal team filed the two-page document at the Quebec Court of Appeal on Wednesday, asking the province's top tribunal for a third trial.
Turcotte's lawyers were hoping the jury would find him not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder -- the verdict that was handed down in 2011 at his first trial.
The ex-cardiologist is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 15.
The Crown recommended Turcotte, 43, serve at least 20 years in prison before being eligible to apply for parole, while the defence suggested he serve less than 15 years, and closer to 10.
Turcotte's legal team says Vincent:
- erred in telling jurors not to consider the impact of Turcotte's suicidal thoughts on his mental state at the time of the stabbings.
- "created confusion" in jurors' minds on the impact of intoxication in regards to a mental disorder defence.
- erred in his instructions on the notion that Turcotte knew the acts he committed were bad.
An appeal isn't likely to be heard in the near future. The Crown and defence will be given time to file motions with the court and a date will be set to hear the case on its merits. Transcripts must be drawn up from the recently completed trial before all that can happen.
The appeals court only ruled in 2013 to overturn the 2011 not criminally responsible verdict.
The Crown contended during the 12-week 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.
Vincent told the jurors that to find Turcotte not criminally responsible they had to believe he had proven he was incapable of judging the nature or quality of his acts or of knowing whether the acts were wrong.
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.
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 it 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.