Jury hears closing arguments in murder trial of Quebec City sword attacker

Crown prosecutor François Godin and defence attorney Pierre Gagnon made passionate pleas on Wednesday as to why Carl Girouard, the man charged in the Quebec City sword attacks of Halloween 2020, should or shouldn't be held criminally responsible for his actions.

Mental illness not a free pass for criminal responsibility, prosecutor says

Crown prosecutor François Godin, left, and Carl Girouard's lawyer Pierre Gagnon, right, delivered their closing arguments on Wednesday. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

Crown prosecutor François Godin and defence attorney Pierre Gagnon made passionate pleas on Wednesday as to why Carl Girouard, the man charged in the Quebec City sword attacks of Halloween 2020, should — or should not be — held criminally responsible for his actions.

The jury members listened attentively and took notes as the lawyers presented their closing arguments in the murder trial of Girouard.

The 26-year-old defendant is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder after he killed two people and attacked five more with a sword on Oct. 31, 2020.

While Girouard has admitted to carrying out the attacks, his defence team argues that he can't be held criminally responsible because he was delusional at the time.

The Crown staunchly rejected that premise, referring to evidence that suggested that Girouard's actions were premeditated and deliberate.

A quest for the truth

Carl Girouard, 26, refused to answer police questions after his arrest, saying he had the right to remain silent. (Screenshot/video provided by the Service de police de la Ville de Québec)

The prosecutor told the jury having a mental illness doesn't give someone a free pass — the defence has to prove that the person couldn't understand what they were doing was wrong.

"We think [the defence] didn't do that," he said. "We are looking for the truth."

Godin asked the jurors if they really believed that Girouard, who had been obsessed with his mission to kill people for six years, could forget about it immediately after the attacks and do so without any medication if he had truly been delusional.

The prosecutor said the defence's theory relied on a "miraculous healing," reminding the jury that schizophrenia is a disease that can be treated, but not cured.

He also pointed out instances when Girouard doubted his actions. He said if the defendant had really been delusional, he wouldn't have had any hesitations.

Quebec City police found uneaten grapes and cheese snack in Girouard's car. Girouard testified that he bought the snack at a corner store on his way to Quebec City shortly before the attacks, but couldn't eat it because he felt anxious. (Service de police de la Ville de Québec)

Godin implied that forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gilles Chamberland, who testified on behalf of the defence, had omitted important details when he evaluated the defendant.

He pointed out for example that Chamberland didn't look at the notes from detention employees who observed Girouard after his arrest and failed to notice how many times Girouard met with the social worker whom he had shared his mission.

"I invite you to determine who has or doesn't have a bias," he said. "Ask yourselves – which psychiatrist explains well the idea that the mission disappeared in a snap of a finger?"

Godin also expressed doubts about the credibility of the defendant's testimony. If Girouard's mission was top secret, why did he write a paper about it in school, he asked.

The prosecutor concluded that Girouard knew very well that his actions were wrong, which is why he refused to consult a psychiatrist when he was referred to one in 2015, why he couldn't eat the snacks he bought before the attacks and why he was surprised that the nurse was nice to him after his arrest.

Credibility of Crown experts questioned

Psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher, left, and neuropsychologist Dr. William Pothier, right, both came to the same diagnosis after evaluating Carl Girouard in March 2022. (Radio-Canada)

The defence's closing remarks focused on questioning the credibility and objectivity of the Crown's two expert witnesses, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher and neuropsychologist Dr. William Pothier.

Girouard's lawyer accused them of cherry-picking evidence when they came up with the same diagnosis that Girouard is a hypervigilant narcissist.

He suggested that Faucher was biased and tried to match his conclusion with Pothier's after reading his report.

For example, he said Faucher failed to properly explain why Girouard, who loved his mother, was planning to burn her home with gasoline as part of his mission if he wasn't delusional.

He also pointed out inconsistencies between the experts' testimonies and their reports.

"It's not because they are experts that you'll decide to retain, with the same plausibility or certitude, [what they say]," he said.

Psychiatrist Dr. Gilles Chamberland, left, testified on behalf of the defence. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

Gagnon invited the jury to compare the two experts' experience and expertise to Chamberland's, noting that Chamberland is recognized internationally for his work.

The lawyer said that contrary to Faucher's claims, many elements of evidence do support Chamberland's theory that Girouard had spiraled into schizophrenia.

Girouard was solitary, had limited interests, stopped interacting with others and started to think it was normal to kill, Gagnon said.

The defence lawyer concluded by saying that his client understood that he was killing people, but in his delusional state "he couldn't conceive that his actions were wrong."

The judge is planning on giving the jury part of his instructions on Thursday, and the rest after the weekend.