Tests of Quebec City sword attacker ruled out psychosis, Crown expert says

Carl Girouard would not have hesitated about attacking several people with a sword in Quebec City on Oct. 31, 2020 if he had been truly delusional, an expert witness for the Crown testified Tuesday.

Delusions don’t go away so quickly, neuropsychologist testifies

Neuropsychologist Dr. William Pothier, right, finished his testimony Tuesday. He was cross-interrogated by the defence team at the end of the day. (Radio-Canada)

Carl Girouard would not have hesitated about attacking several people with a sword in Quebec City on Oct. 31, 2020 if he had been truly delusional, an expert witness for the Crown testified Tuesday.

Girouard appeared to listen anxiously as neuropsychologist Dr. William Pothier continued his testimony at the Quebec City courthouse. The accused looked up only after the cross-examination had started.

The 26-year-old defendant has admitted to killing two people and attacking five more with a sword but argues he cannot be criminally responsible for his actions because he had a mental disorder.

During a meeting in March 2022, Girouard told Pothier he started questioning his mission to kill people after he attacked his first four victims, and had even more doubts once he had killed his fifth victim, Suzanne Clermont, on des Remparts Street.

Pothier refuted the diagnosis of psychosis put forward by psychiatrist Dr. Gilles Chamberland, pictured above. (Radio-Canada)

The fact that he had doubts about his actions indicates that he wasn't delusional at the time, because a delusion implies the person's idea or belief is unshakable, Pothier told the court.

Pothier's psychological analysis is in sharp contrast to a witness for the defence, Dr. Gilles Chamberland, a forensic psychiatrist who testified Girouard was in psychosis and delusional at the time of the events.

Pothier told the jury he conducted two personality tests to analyze Girouard's personality and way of thinking. 

The expert explained that one of these tests, the Rorschach inkblot test, helps diagnose 80 to 90 per cent of psychosis cases, like schizophrenia.

But based on Girouard's results, Pothier testified it is "unlikely" Girouard has that mental disorder. "He doesn't have an issue perceiving reality," he said.

Clear traits of hypervigilant narcissism

Carl Girouard met Dr. William Pothier twice in March 2022. (Service de police de la Ville de Québec)

Pothier told the jury Girouard showed typical traits of someone who is a hypervigilant narcissist. He explained that is someone with fragile self-esteem who is extremely sensitive to criticism

As a result, that person will put barriers in place to protect themselves, such as withdrawing socially even though they might crave human connection.

Carl Girouard could be seen rocking back and forth and looking steadily at the floor during Pothier's testimony. (Illustration by Hbé)

The neuropsychologist testified Girouard used a defence mechanism called cleavage that allows narcissists to protect their self-esteem.

The person will compartmentalize positive traits in one box that they associate with themselves and put all their failings in another box that they blame on external factors.

Pothier said that's exactly what Girouard was doing when he associated a "bad Carl" with all his bad actions, like the killings, and a "good Carl" with all the positive aspects of his behaviour.

Although Girouard also expressed discomfort with being in detention and thought about the people he had hurt with his actions, Pothier said the defendant was also victimizing himself for his situation.

Under cross-examination, questions remain

Defence lawyer Pierre Gagnon, right, led a persistent cross-interrogation of neuropsychologist William Pothier. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

Pothier faced a determined cross-examination by Girouard's lawyer Pierre Gagnon.

He was unable to clearly give examples of the atypical symptoms Girouard showed in the tests.

He did not give a clear answer when asked why he didn't pay more attention to a specific psychologist's report from Girouard's childhood that mentioned Girouard had morbid ideas from a young age.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Richard Grenier interrupted the cross-interrogation a few times, saying it felt like Gagnon and Pothier weren't understanding each other after repeated back and forth.

He asked Pothier to be more direct in his responses.

The Crown's second expert witness, psychiatrist Sylvain Faucher, will testify Wednesday.