Former Canadian judge accused of killing wife pleads guilty to manslaughter

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Retired Quebec judge pleads guilty to manslaughter in wife’s shooting death
Jacques Delisle, a retired Quebec judge, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2009 shooting death of his wife Marie Nicole Rainville. The plea ends a long legal battle for the former magistrate who was facing a second murder trial – Mar 14, 2024

A retired Quebec judge who spent years behind bars and was facing a second murder trial in his wife’s 2009 shooting death pleaded guilty to manslaughter, putting an end to a nearly 15-year legal battle.

Jacques Delisle appeared at the Quebec City courthouse Thursday to admit to one count of manslaughter. He walked in slowly, wearing a navy suit and a mask.

Delisle’s lawyer told the courtroom his client did not shoot his wife Marie Nicole Rainville but he caused her death by leaving a loaded gun next to her at her request. Jacques Larochelle described Delisle as a loving husband to an ailing wife, but his lawyer acknowledged he had taken a more active role in her death by suicide than previously admitted.

“The charge I thought was more appropriate was assisted suicide but it was not accepted for reasons beyond my comprehension,” Larochelle told reporters outside the courtroom.

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Crown prosecutor François Godin supported the manslaughter plea, but said he did not agree with the defence’s version of events. The prosecution accepted the plea in part because of Delisle’s age and for the course of justice, adding that “the case somewhere, sometime has to come to an end.”

“We still believe that Mr. Delisle would have been found guilty of first-degree murder if he were to stand trial,” Godin told journalists.

The prosecution and defense jointly requested the judge sentence Delisle to one additional day behind bars, taking into account the eight years and 310 days already served.

Delisle was sentenced to one day, and the former magistrate could be heard saying “you’re not serious” as he was cuffed and escorted out out of the courtroom.

Delisle, 88, is believed to be the first Canadian judge to ever stand trial for murder. He was convicted in 2012 of fatally shooting Rainville and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Former Quebec Court of Appeal judge Jacques Delisle (right) and his son Jean Delisle walk to the courtroom at the Hall of Justice in Quebec City, Thursday, March 14, 2024. Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

The former Quebec Court of Appeal judge maintained his innocence for years, saying Rainville took her own life while the Crown argued Delisle killed her.

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A major part of the case revolved around the angle of entry of the bullet, which could confirm or infer a suicide. Questions surrounding the reliability of this forensic evidence led to a new trial being ordered in 2021.

Delisle’s initial appeal was dismissed in 2013, and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his case. He spent nine years in prison.

But Delisle was freed in 2021 when David Lametti, the federal justice minister at the time, ordered a new trial after reviewing evidence that was not previously before the courts and concluded a miscarriage of justice had likely occurred.

In April 2022, Delisle’s lawyers then argued successfully that a retrial would be impossible because of the errors in the pathology report and unreasonable delays. The Court of Appeal later reverse the Superior Court judge’s decision to grant a new stay, paving the way for a new trial.

The Supreme Court of Canada was expected to decide on Thursday whether it would hear Delisle’s appeal of that last decision.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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