QUEBEC — A former Quebec judge found guilty in 2012 of fatally shooting his wife was ordered released from prison on Friday while he awaits a new murder trial.
Superior Court Justice Francois Huot accepted the request to release the 85-year-old Jacques Delisle following a 15-minute hearing at the Quebec City courthouse.
Huot's decision came after the federal Justice Department announced this week that Justice Minister David Lametti had ordered a new trial for the ex-judge after concluding a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in the case.
The department said the minister had reviewed evidence that was not before the courts at the time of Delisle's trial or appeal.
Delisle was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Marie Nicole Rainville, and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. His appeal was dismissed in 2013, and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his case.
Calling himself a "victim of a judicial error," Delisle requested in 2015 that the Justice Department review his case. In the application to the department, lawyer James Lockyer had argued that proper analysis of the gun used to kill Rainville would rule out the possibility that Delisle fired the weapon.
Lockyer and another lawyer for Delisle, Jacques Larochelle, argued in court Friday that the new evidence reviewed by Lametti "suggests Delisle is probably innocent and that the death of Rainville was a suicide."
The defence also argued Delisle's continued detention "wasn't in the public interest" and asked the judge to consider their client's advanced age.
The prosecution conceded that Lametti's decision to order a new trial returns Delisle to where he was in 2010, when he had been released under conditions awaiting his first trial.
"How could we have logically kept him in detention after nine years of imprisonment, when he is 10 years older, therefore less dangerous, less likely to flee and commit other offences? " Larochelle said to reporters Friday at the courthouse.
Audrey Roy-Cloutier, spokeswoman for the prosecutions office, said a conditional release isn't the same as an acquittal. The order issued by the justice minister "does not mean that the convicted person is exonerated," she said, adding that Delisle does benefit from the presumption of innocence.
The case returns to court Sept. 7.
Delisle, the first Canadian judge to be convicted of first-degree murder, promised to respect conditions of his release, including not leaving Canada or possessing weapons. He also agreed to put up $100,000 bail.
Masked and wearing a blue shirt, Delisle appeared in court via videoconference. He told the judge he would "definitely" respect his release conditions.
Delisle, a former judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal, has maintained that he found his wife dead when he walked into the condo they shared in Quebec City on Nov. 12, 2009. She lay on a sofa, a .22-calibre pistol at her side and a bullet wound in her head. He called 911, telling the operator that his wife had killed herself.
The Crown argued during Delisle’s month-long trial in 2012 that he killed his 71-year-old spouse because he wanted to avoid a costly divorce and wanted to move in with his former secretary, with whom he had been having an affair.
Rainville had been paralyzed on one side by a stroke in 2007 and was recovering from a fractured hip suffered a few months before she died.
Delisle's version of events stated that his wife was depressed and took her own life using the gun that was found by her body. The former judge never testified during his trial, but in 2015, he admitted in an interview with Radio-Canada that he had helped his wife kill herself by leaving a loaded gun in the home.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2021.
Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press