Trial underway for man accused in Quebec City's 2020 Halloween sword attack

The 12 jurors selected for the trial of Carl Girouard will have to decide whether or not the 26-year-old man is criminally responsible for killing two people and injuring five more with a sword in Quebec City’s historic district on the night of Halloween 2020. 

Carl Girouard faces 2 counts of 1st-degree murder and 5 counts of attempted murder

Carl Girouard, 26, (right) was present at the Quebec City courthouse on Monday for the first day of his trial hearing. (Illustration by Hbé)

It took less than an hour to select the 12 jurors for the trial of Carl Girouard, the 26-year-old-man accused of killing two people and injuring five more with a sword in Quebec City's historic district on the night of Halloween 2020. 

"The question you'll have to answer is whether the accused suffered from mental disorder at that time," said Crown prosecutor François Godin as he addressed the jury on Monday. 

"I invite you to use your common sense and your discernment throughout [the trial]."

Girouard does not deny the actions he is accused of, but intends to plead not guilty to the two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder because he says his mental state at the time prevented him from being criminally responsible.

The Crown will argue Girouard was sane, perfectly aware of his actions and had actually planned them years in advance.

Godin said that Girouard used violence because he thought it showed superiority over others. "He wanted to be an agent of chaos," he said.

The Crown, which has the burden of proof, will introduce witnesses, videos and pictures in chronological order.

'A sword, it can hurt people when it's close'

Two witnesses who provided psychological support to Carl Girouard in 2014 testified on Monday. (Illustration by Hbé)

The first witness to testify was Hugo Mercier Villeneuve, a counsellor at an adult school Girouard attended in 2014. 

During a meeting with Mercier Villeneuve in December 2014, Girouard told the counsellor about a story he had written about a costumed character with a sword who kills two people.

Mercier Villeneuve said Girouard told him he identified with the character and wanted to carry out a plan that would make him stand out. He also said Girouard told him he had been thinking about it for a couple of years. The young man also expressed suicidal and homicidal thoughts to the counsellor.

Mercier Villeneuve, who was evaluating whether Girouard posed a threat to himself or others, asked him if he was planning to hurt anyone with this plan. 

He said Girouard answered that he wasn't planning on harming anyone specifically — but "a sword, it can hurt people when it's close."

Mercier Villeneuve said the defendant wouldn't give more details but did say the plan involved a costume at home, saying it was risky to disclose more. 

Girouard allegedly bought the sword he used in the attacks online from a Chinese company on Jan. 16, 2020, for $403. He paid duty fees for it on May 7, 2020. (Illustration by Hbé)

The second witness, a social worker called Charles-André Bourdua who worked in a crisis intervention centre at an unnammed CLSC in the Laurentians, echoed much of Mercier Villeneuve's testimony.

Bourdua first met Girouard, who is from Sainte-Thérèse, Que., near Montreal, in December 2014. Girouard told him about his plan to kill random people with a sword, saying he wanted to do something "noble and beautiful" that would send a message to society. 

Bourdua said the defendant did not have a specific timeline to carry out his plan but wanted to finalize his costume and remove his tattoo first so he would be "pure" when taking action.

By the summer 2015, Bourdua said Girouard had changed his plan because he was afraid of going to prison. The defendant told him he felt happier and, while he still wanted to commit a grandiose act, he didn't intend to kill anyone anymore.

Bourdua's ninth and final contact with Girouard was on Sept. 18 of that year.

The defence is planning to cross-examine the social worker Tuesday morning.

A trial by jury

The courtroom at the Quebec City courthouse was packed with people while Justice Richard Grenier explained the jury selection process. (Carl Boivin/Radio-Canada)

The Quebec City courtroom was packed with potential jurors as the jury selection got underway Monday morning. Quebec Superior Court Justice Richard Grenier explained the process to the audience. 

Eight women and four men will determine whether or not Girouard is criminally responsible for his actions. Those selected had to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Grenier reminded the jurors that they have to render their decision based on the evidence presented in court only, and that they cannot be influenced by outside sources such as media coverage of the trial.

Girouard is charged with killing François Duchesne, 56, and Suzanne Clermont, 61.

The lanky young man was present in the courtroom for the hearing, wearing an orange shirt and sporting a shaved head. He rocked back and forth in his seat as he waited for the procedures to start.

Girouard is represented by his attorney Pierre Gagnon. The lawyers expect the trial to last four to six weeks.

With files from Yannick Bergeron