Montreal

Quebec City sword attacker guilty of 1st-degree murder

Accused admitted he had carried out two killings and five other attacks but said he was not criminally responsible for his actions. His defence lawyer says he will appeal the verdict.

Carl Girouard, 26, faces life in prison, no parole for at least 25 years

Carl Girouard, 26, killed two people and attacked five more with a sword in Quebec City's historic district on Oct. 31, 2020. (Illustration by Hbé)

The 26-year-old man who carried out the Quebec City Halloween sword attacks has been found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of François Duchesne, 56, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, on Oct. 31, 2020.

The jury of 11 delivered its verdict at the Quebec City courthouse on Friday, after almost five days of deliberation.

Carl Girouard was also convicted of five counts of attempted murder for his attacks on five other people that night.

Girouard sported a freshly shaved head and stood up when the jury delivered its verdict. He appeared stiff and stoic as he listened.

Lisa Mahmoud, one of the survivors, was present in the courtroom. She could be seen holding hands with a friend and Suzanne Clermont's sister-in-law as they waited for the verdict.

Mahmoud said she felt really relieved by the verdict. 

"I have a hard time rejoicing in the misfortune of others but I am really happy that the jury made the right decision," she said. 

"He will have a very bad life and that's what he chose."

Lisa Mahmoud, one of Carl Girouard's victims, said she felt relieved by the verdict. (Radio-Canada)

Mahmoud said reliving the events of that day and seeing Girouard again during the trial was difficult but that she was satisfied she was able to share her story in court. 

Girouard assaulted Mahmoud at least 10 times with the sabre, including stabbing her in the stomach. Mahmoud pulled the sword out of her abdomen while her friend distracted Girouard. They both then fled.

She said she still feels anger and is working hard in rehabilitation to try to recover her motor skills, with the hope of returning to hairdressing. 

"I feel stronger now. I'm 26 years old. I have my life ahead of me," Mahmoud said. "He is not a master of my life, nor of his own life now," she added, referring to Girouard.

Suzanne Clermont's husband, Jacques Fortin, told Radio-Canada he oscillated between moments of great joy and great sorrow since the death of his wife. (Pascal Poinlane/Radio-Canada)

"We can't rejoice about a situation like this one, but justice was served," said Clermont's husband Jacques Fortin, in an interview he gave to Radio-Canada at the site of a memorial to his wife on des Remparts Street on Friday.

Fortin did not attend the trial, but said he could finally start grieving now that Girouard is convicted.

Clermont's sister-in-law, Marie-Claude Veilleux said she was also pleased with the ruling.

"Society will be protected from this dangerous individual. Unfortunately, it's too late for Suzanne Clermont and François Duchesne," Veilleux told reporters at the courthouse.

"[The verdict] won't give us back our loved ones, but at least it will protect society."

Veilleux said attending the trial was tough but that she felt it was her duty to be there every day.

The Crown argued that Girouard had thought about perpetrating the attacks for years and was conscious of what he was doing at the time of his crimes.

Two expert witnesses for the Crown testified that the defendant was a hypervigilant narcissist who felt the need to do something shocking to gain public recognition. 

Girouard's lawyer Pierre Gagnon said his client was disappointed with the jury's decision and intends to appeal it. (Yannick Bergeron/Radio-Canada)

Defence team to appeal

Girouard's lawyer Pierre Gagnon said his client was disappointed with the ruling and intends to appeal. 

"The verdict is clearly not in line with the arguments we submitted to the jury," Gagnon said. 

He said the four days the jury spent deliberating had allowed the defence team to go over what happened during the trial and identify aspects they could use in an appeal. 

That includes the five hours the prosecutor spent interrogating Girouard, and his interpretation of Girouard's lack of responses to the jury.

Gagnon alluded to a comment made by the judge, Quebec Superior Court Justice Richard Grenier, right before the jury entered the room. 

Grenier criticized the prosecutors for telling the jury that Girouard's silence during a five-hour police interrogation was proof of his sanity. 

He told the prosecutors it was not their job to defend the police for doing such a long interrogation, adding that the Quebec Court of Appeal had already ordered a retrial in another case for a similar situation. 

Crown prosecutor François Godin, left, and Carl Girouard's lawyer Pierre Gagnon, right, made their closing arguments at the Quebec City courthouse last week. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

Girouard admitted to carrying out the attacks, but his defence team argued he could not be found criminally responsible because he was delusional and in psychosis at the time and could not distinguish right from wrong as a result.

During the trial, Girouard testified that he was facing an inner battle between two Carls, the "real" one and a "bad Carl" obsessed with a mission to kill. 

The Crown argued that Girouard could not have been delusional at the time, because he showed signs of hesitating before the attacks and expressed doubts about what he was doing after striking his first couple of victims.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher, who testified on behalf of the Crown, explained that a delusion is an irrefutable belief and that it is impossible to snap out of it so quickly without medication.

Forensic psychiatrist Sylvain Faucher, left, and neuropsychologist William Pothier, right, both testified on behalf of the Crown. (Radio-Canada)

Prosecutors showed evidence suggesting that Girouard had been planning the attack since he was in his late teens: driving twice to Quebec City's historic district two years prior to the events, preparing his costume in advance, and removing some tattoos Girouard felt were "impure."

The jury, composed of four men and seven women, heard that Girouard first told a social worker and a school counsellor about his mission at the age of 18.

Sentencing hearing scheduled for June

Girouard faces life imprisonment and will not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years. His trial, which started April 11, had to be delayed twice after some jurors tested positive for COVID-19.

He will be back in court on June 10 for his sentencing hearing. Many victims intend to testify at that hearing, the prosecutor informed the judge. 

The Crown is waiting for the Supreme Court's decision on the case of the Quebec City mosque shooter. The Supreme Court is set to rule on May 27 whether or not a person can accumulate consecutive sentences for murdering multiple people.

With files from Verity Stevenson and Radio-Canada's Pascal Poinlane

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