Michel Cadotte, 56, who was accused of second-degree murder in the death of his wife this winter, has been granted bail. 

Cadotte was charged in February, shortly after his wife, 60-year-old Jocelyne Lizotte, was found dead in the long-term care institution in which she was living in downtown Montreal. 

He appeared in court Friday morning and has been released into his sister's custody pending his trial. Wearing a black suit and tie, Cadotte looked tired but relieved.

Outside the courthouse, he told reporters how tired he was and thanked his family, lawyers and the public for their support. 

Cadotte's lawyer, Elfriede Duclervil, spoke for him through a prepared statement.

"Public opinion helped his case and greatly contributed to his freedom," Duclervil said. 

The dates of Lizotte's birth and death were posted to Cadotte's Facebook page in February, followed by a post saying he "cracked" and "gave in to her demand for help dying."

"I'm waiting for police," the post concluded.

Montreal police said no obvious signs of violence were found on Lizotte's body. 

Duclervil repeated in court this morning that her client had "cracked" from the stress of caring for Lizotte. 

"[The case of] our client is an occasion to debate something that is extremely difficult for society right now," Duclervil said. "His situation is personal: he is someone who was physically, emotionally at the breaking point."

"Unfortunately, Michel Cadotte was the only one, almost the only one, being there for [his wife] day in and day out," she said.

Not an act of protest, judge concludes

Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Pennou said the court did not condone Lizotte's killing.

Had Cadotte's act appeared to be an act of protest to try and change the country's medically assisted dying laws, Pennou said he would have revoked bail. 

But he concluded Cadotte's actions appeared to be an expression of exhaustion and frustration and that he doesn't believe the accused man poses a risk to public safety. 

Cadotte's nephew, François Cadotte, told CBC at the time of Lizotte's death that she had been living with Alzheimer's disease and that the family had sought a doctor-assisted death for her but was refused.

Cadotte's family members who were in court Friday breathed sighs of relief at Pennou's decision to grant him bail and exchanged hugs with his sister, France Cadotte.

With files from Patrick Butler, Elias Abboud and Radio-Canada's Karine Bastien