Guy Turcotte challenges parole eligibility before Quebec Court of Appeal

The Quebec Court of Appeal heard a challenge Tuesday from former cardiologist Guy Turcotte, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his two children in 2009.

Turcotte was sentenced to life behind bars after he was found guilty in deaths of his children

Guy Turcotte was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2009 deaths of Olivier, 5, and Anne-Sophie, 3. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The Quebec Court of Appeal heard a challenge Tuesday from former cardiologist Guy Turcotte, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his two children in 2009.

Turcotte is contesting his parole eligibility, which a judge ruled would not be an option before he served 17 years of his sentence.

His lawyer Pierre Poupart told the court that Turcotte was a "loving father in a state of despair" at the time of the fatal stabbings.

"The one who is most terrorized by what he did is him," said Poupart.

A conviction of second-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life imprisonment, with a minimum 10 years before parole eligibility.

Poupart argued Turcotte is not a danger to society and he should be eligible for parole after serving between 10 and 15 years.

He added that the trial judge didn't give enough weight to Turcotte's mental state when the cardiologist killed his children, Olivier, 5, and Anne-Sophie, 3.

Quebec Superior Court Justice André Vincent had said Turcotte's sentence reflected the nature and gravity of the crimes. In his ruling, he qualified the crimes as hateful and horrible.

'I will honour their memory,' mother says

During the proceedings Tuesday, Court of Appeal Justice Allan Hilton told Poupart "the real victim for these actions is Mrs. [Isabelle] Gaston," he said, referring to the children's mother and Turcotte's ex-wife.

Gaston was in the courtroom and sat stoically, listening to Turcotte's lawyer argue why his client should be released sooner.

Gaston once again had to sit through heartbreaking details about the day her children died — how Turcotte stabbed them 46 times.

Gaston said it's painful to be back in a courtroom, but she feels she must attend.

"I'm still fighting with the image in my head — with psychologists and psychiatrists — because that's the main battle for me is trying to get out of my head those terrible images. You are a parent one day and you are a parent all your life so even if my children are not physically here I will honour their memory and be there for them," she told reporters outside the courtroom.

"Every time I see a father that is giving love to his children it hurts me a lot because I cannot understand how my children looked at their father when he was killing them."

The Crown argued Turcotte's crimes were so heinous that he deserves his sentence.

Prosector René Verret said a father who takes the life of his own children is committing a crime "to the highest degree."

The three Court of Appeal judges will analyze the arguments before deciding to either reduce the period for Turcotte's parole eligibilty or maintain it at 17 years. Their decision will mark the final step in a nine-year-long court battle.

A jury initially found Turcotte not criminally responsible in 2011, but two years later, the province's high court ordered a second trial.

In December 2015, a jury found Turcotte guilty in the stabbing deaths of his children.

With files from The Canadian Press