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 criminally responsible at his 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 Madame Gaston,” a reference to 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.