The murder trial of a Montreal man for the death of his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife neared its end Tuesday as lawyers made their final arguments ahead of jury deliberations.
Michel Cadotte’s lawyer implored jurors to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter while the prosecution argued the criteria for second-degree murder had been met.
Cadotte, 57, is charged in the killing of his wife of 19 years, Jocelyne Lizotte, who was suffocated with a pillow at a Montreal long-term care home on Feb. 20, 2017.
Lizotte, 60, was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Cadotte had been told about a year before the slaying that his wife did not qualify for a medically assisted death because she couldn’t consent and was not considered to be at the end of her life.
Defence lawyer Elfriede Duclervil told jurors to consider the evidence of the years of suffering and isolation that left Cadotte exhausted, depressed and unable to formulate the intent necessary for a second-degree murder conviction.
“For a brief moment, he lost control,” she said. “He wanted Jocelyne’s suffering to stop — but he did not want her to die.
“He just wanted her to stop suffering.”
Cadotte’s lawyer painted a picture of a man worn down by nine years of trying to care for his wife, who was stricken with Alzheimer’s at a very young age, depriving her of her autonomy and the ability to interact with loved ones.
Duclervil told jurors that Cadotte and Lizotte suffered through “hell,” and Cadotte did what he could as he watched the neurodegenerative disease ravage his wife. Years of caring for her took their toll to the point where he acted impulsively on the day of her death, his lawyer said.
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The prosecution reminded jurors that second-degree murder is not planned or premeditated, and not a lot of thought needs to be given before the slaying.
Genevieve Langlois told jurors their task will be to focus on what Cadotte was thinking that day, noting the questions of who killed Lizotte and how it was done are not contested.
“The only question you have to ask yourself is, at the moment that Mr. Cadotte put the pillow on Mrs. Lizotte’s face, did he intend to cause her death?” Langlois said.
Defence experts testified that Cadotte was suffering from a major depression and was disturbed, but Langlois countered that the depression diagnosis put forth by the defence experts is purely hypothetical.
“I submit that the evidence presented before you shows that Mr. Cadotte made many decisions, and we suggest that he very likely made the wrong one at the moment he chose to take the life of Mrs. Lizotte,” Langlois said.
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She also noted that he didn’t try to revive Lizotte — which he told the court he had training to do. If it was impulsive, why did Cadotte not try to revive her, Langlois asked.
The minimum sentence for a second-degree murder conviction is life in prison with no parole for 10 years. There is no minimum sentence for manslaughter, except in cases when a firearm is used and the minimum is four years in prison.
The jury, which began hearing the case in mid-January, is expected to be sequestered Wednesday after final instructions from Superior Court Justice Helene Di Salvo.