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Jury at Quebec sword murder trial hears from final Crown expert psychiatrist

QUEBEC — The jury at the first-degree murder trial of Carl Girouard in the Quebec City Halloween sword attack started hearing from a final witness late Wednesday. Dr.
Quebec Crown prosecutor François Godin speaks to reporters outside a courtroom, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

QUEBEC — The jury at the first-degree murder trial of Carl Girouard in the Quebec City Halloween sword attack started hearing from a final witness late Wednesday.

Dr. Sylvain Faucher, a psychiatrist testifying on behalf of the Crown, detailed his academic and professional background before the case adjourned, and on Thursday he is set to provide his opinion on Girouard's case.

Girouard, 26, is accused of two counts of first-degree murder in the Oct. 31, 2020, deaths of François Duchesne, 56, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, as well as five counts of attempted murder. He has admitted to the physical acts, but his defence maintains he was not criminally responsible because he suffered from a mental disorder.

The Crown has argued Girouard was well aware of his actions and had planned his attack over several years.

Faucher's testimony is expected to counter that of the defence expert, Dr. Gilles Chamberland, who found that Girouard had schizophrenia, was in a state of psychosis, suffered from delusions and could not tell right from wrong.

The defence spent hours Wednesday cross-examining a first Crown expert, neuropsychologist Dr. William Pothier, who found that Girouard has a personality disorder — narcissism — and seeks recognition, and that he could not have been delirious the night of the stabbings.

Pothier assessed Girouard in March 2022, just weeks before the trial, conducting several tests and reading through the suspect's medical files. On the stand for a third day, Pothier faced a barrage of questions from defence lawyer Pierre Gagnon but maintained his findings.

“With the elements that I have, the details in the files, the tests, for me, it’s not a psychotic disorder … for me, it’s a personality disorder," Pothier told the court.

During his time on the stand, Pothier noted Girouard hesitated before murdering two people and injuring five others in the Old Quebec district, adding that patients in a state of delirium don't usually doubt themselves.

He described Girouard as someone who wanted attention but was rejected by his peers because of his disturbing and provocative behaviour. The expert said Girouard withdrew and found refuge in video games, a fantasy world where he could cast himself as the hero.

Girouard has testified that he began mixing up reality and video games in his teens and hatched a "mission" by age 18 to create chaos, to change the world and to encourage like-minded people -- whom he called his "alter-egos" — to continue his objective. 

Pothier said his assessment of Girouard was that he was able to make the distinction between his imaginary world and reality.

“A person can’t know they’re delusional, but he knows when he’s in his imaginary world and when he’s not, so for me there’s a distinction," Pothier said.

The neuropsychologist did not provide an opinion on criminal responsibility. The Crown will rely on Faucher to make that conclusion.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2022.

— By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.

The Canadian Press