MONTREAL — The case of a Quebec man accused of killing his ailing wife is now in the hands of a jury.
Jurors were sequestered Wednesday to determine the fate of Michel Cadotte, 57, charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife Jocelyne Lizotte, stricken by advanced Alzheimer's disease.
Superior Court Justice Helene Di Salvo told the eight-man, four-woman jury that they must find Michel Cadotte guilty — the only question is whether his crime carried the intent requisite for second-degree murder or was manslaughter. During the trial Cadotte testified that he had suffocated Lizotte with a pillow.
Speaking two years to the day after Lizotte's Feb. 20, 2017 death, the judge stressed that the potential sentence should not factor into their deliberations.
"Your functions are limited to whether the prosecution proved the culpability of Mr. Cadotte beyond a reasonable doubt on either second-degree murder or manslaughter," she told them.
Lizotte, 60, was living in a long-term care facility, unable to care for herself after being stricken by Alzheimer's nine years earlier. Cadotte had been told that his wife of 19 years 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.
The jury will have to assess Cadotte's state of mind at the time of her death. "The central question of your deliberations will be whether there was the intention required to commit a murder," Di Salvo said. If not, a manslaughter conviction is the only option, she added.
The trial began Jan. 14, and Di Salvo spent several hours summarizing the evidence, telling the jury it must be considered as a whole.
Cadotte's lawyers have argued their client was in a depressed state and was unable to cope after watching Lizotte suffer for nine years. The Crown has countered that Cadotte understood the impact of his actions and intended to kill Lizotte when he held the pillow over her face.
With final instructions complete, jurors were sequestered. They will meet daily until they reach a unanimous verdict.
The judge said she wanted to add a nuance to a statement made Tuesday by the Crown prosecutor, who asked jurors not to judge the man but rather the act he committed.
Di Salvo reminded jurors they heard from three experts from the defence and Crown who offered differing opinions on the accused's state of mind.
"It will be difficult for you — even impossible — to dissociate the man, Mr. Cadotte, from the action — putting the pillow on Mrs. Lizotte's face," Di Salvo said. "You will have to judge the act Mr. Cadotte committed, but also his state of mind at that precise moment."
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press