He is the only judge in Canadian history to be convicted of murder. In a candid interview from behind bars at a maximum security prison where he is serving a life sentence for killing his wife, Jacques Delisle tells fifth estate host Mark Kelley that he is not guilty of murder.
Delisle discloses the details of what really happened the morning of his wife’s death, saying that while he did not kill Rainville, he did assist her suicide.
“There are innocent persons in prisons – you have one in front of you,” Delisle, now 79, told the fifth estate's Mark Kelley in an exclusive interview from a maximum security prison outside Montreal.
On Nov. 12, 2009, the 71-year-old Rainville was found in her Quebec City home lying on the couch with a bullet in her head.
In an exclusive interview with the fifth estate and Radio-Canada's Enquete program, Delisle said that while he did not kill his wife, he did provide her with the gun she used to shoot herself.
Rainville had fallen into depression after a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side, followed by a broken hip. According to Delisle and his family, she had talked repeatedly about wanting to kill herself.
In a six week trial in 2012, the Crown focused on the former judge's long-time affair with his secretary – they claimed if ever Delisle divorced his wife, he’d lose more than one million dollars in a settlement.
Delisle was scheduled to testify in his defence, but at the last minute chose to stay silent. He told the fifth estate that his family pleaded with him not to make public the part he had played in Rainville’s murder.
Delisle was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. But forensic and ballistic experts who studied Delisle’s case file for a joint investigation by the fifth estate and Enquete conclude that the bullet trajectory, smudge found on Rainville's hand and gunshot all indicate suicide – not murder.
Delisle’s case has been taken up by Toronto lawyer James Lockyer, whose high-profile work has helped exonerate more than 20 people wrongly convicted of serious crimes. Lockyer has lodged an appeal to have federal justice minister Peter MacKay re-open the case. MacKay says he will carefully examine a request for a new trial once he has all the evidence in front of him.
Convicted prisoners in Canada who have lost all their legal appeals are allowed by law to make a direct appeal to the federal justice minister, asking the government to re-open the case. Lockyer told the fifth estate Delisle “was convicted on what I would consider to be very poor forensic evidence, and that’s a common cause of wrongful convictions.”
Delisle’s son Jean says his family has never doubted his father’s innocence for a moment, and that his father’s conviction has weighed on his family ever since.
Charles Levasseur, a Crown attorney on the original case, remains convinced Delisle pulled the trigger, based largely on the fact that Delisle had a mistress at the time, and that his wife was ailing.
“He didn’t want to have this… burden on his back in his retirement. He wanted to travel. So that’s my theory, and that’s what I think, and that’s what I still think.”