Guilty in ailing wife's death

A jury has found a Montreal man guilty of manslaughter in the killing of his ailing wife.

Michel Cadotte was on trial for second-degree murder in the suffocation death of Jocelyne Lizotte, who was in the last stages of Alzheimer's disease.

The Crown had argued that Cadotte had intended to kill his wife of 19 years, who was unable to care for herself.

Defence lawyers argued their client was in a disturbed state of mind and acted impulsively on Feb. 20, 2017, seeking to end his wife's suffering.

Jurors had only two verdicts open to them: second-degree murder or manslaughter.

The crime had been framed in the media as a compassion killing — an offence that doesn't exist in the Criminal Code. The trial, which began Jan. 14, heard that Cadotte had inquired about a medically assisted death for Lizotte a year before she was killed.

Justice Helene Di Salvo told jurors their deliberations would not consider the laws around medically assisted death or the quality of care provided in long-term care centres like the one in which Lizotte lived, even if those issues inevitably surfaced in the case.

"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," Di Salvo said.

Cadotte's lawyers had argued, without the jury present, that an acquittal should be possible, but the judge ruled it wasn't an option.

The accused had admitted to killing Lizotte and the legal criteria had not been met for acquittal, Di Salvo ruled. In her final instructions, she told the jurors they should not take into account the potential sentence, because sentencing is the judge's responsibility.

Second-degree murder carries a life sentence without possibility of parole for at least 10 years while there is no minimum sentence for a manslaughter conviction, unless a firearm was used in the crime.

The Crown had argued Cadotte was in full control and intended to take Lizotte's life.

A physician from the Emilie-Gamelin long-term care facility testified that although Lizotte had late-stage Alzheimer's and was detached from reality, she was not deemed to be at the end of her life. She was receiving care to keep her comfortable but wasn't at a point where palliative care was necessary.

Cadotte had spent years caring for his wife, even after her she was placed in care. He did her laundry because Lizotte's immune system was weak, and he didn't want her clothes washed with other patients'. He had a hairdresser visit every month and had a television installed in her room so she could listen to music. He also made sure she had better quality lotions, soaps and shampoos. He gave her chocolate — her one luxury — whenever he could.

The court heard Lizotte's family was largely unable to cope with her illness and Cadotte was left to handle her care.

Cadotte testified that he felt tremendous guilt when he decided in March 2013 that he could no longer care for Lizotte at home, because she had often told him she didn't want to end up in care like her own mother — who'd also suffered from Alzheimer's.

He testified that other relatives had distanced themselves, but he couldn't follow suit.

"She was my wife. I loved her," Cadotte told the court. "I wasn't able to (leave her)."

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