MONTREAL — A Crown expert cast doubt Monday on a Montreal man's defence that he was suffering from depression that hindered his decision-making when he killed his severely ill wife nearly two years ago.
Dr. Gilles Chamberland is the final witness to take the stand at the second-degree murder trial of Michel Cadotte, accused of killing his wife, Joceylne Lizotte.
Testifying for the Crown, Chamberland told jurors Monday that Cadotte, 57, showed no evidence of major depression at the time of the killing.
Chamberland, who met with Cadotte last month, pointed to another factor behind the killing: heavy alcohol consumption the weekend before the slaying, which contributed to a secondary mood disorder — but not a major depression.
Cadotte's actions before and after the killing aren't compatible with someone who wasn't conscious of his actions, he added.
"Overall we do not find in him evidence of major depression in the period preceding the events," he wrote, telling jurors: "If he was in a depression, it would not have made carrying out the act easier — on the contrary, it would have made it less possible."
Cadotte himself told the psychiatrist the killing might have been avoided had he not been drinking in the days before, Chamberland testified.
The witness countered defence experts who testified that Cadotte was suffering from depression on Feb. 20, 2017, the day Lizotte, 60, was killed.
The defence argued that Cadotte was so depressed and sleep-deprived at the time after a weekend of drinking that "he didn't have the freedom of choice" and that his state of mind does not support a conviction for murder.
Cadotte has described for the jury how he used a pillow to smother his wife, who had been living in a long-term care centre with advanced Alzheimer's disease. He said he was unable to watch her suffer anymore.
The jury also heard that a year before Lizotte's death, Cadotte had sought a medically assisted death for his wife of 19 years. He was told she didn't qualify because she was not at the end of her life and could not consent.
Chamberland said it was clear from the evidence heard at trial and his conversation with Cadotte that he didn't meet the criteria for having depression.
"Someone who is depressed is someone who doesn't want to have contact with people. They isolate themselves and run away from contact," Chamberland said.
In Cadotte's case, he had tried to re-establish contact with his adult children in the weeks leading up to the killing. And a weekend drinking binge preceding the slaying was because of a failed reconnection.
Defence experts said Cadotte was experiencing a mix of emotions — sadness, anger, frustration — and acted impulsively when he ended Lizotte's life. But Chamberland noted that Cadotte had said he wanted to end her suffering, which does not suggest an impulsive act.
Chamberland said there's nothing to suggest that Lizotte was being mistreated at the facility. The psychiatrist even raised an issue of whether Lizotte wanted to end her life — an option that didn't exist when she signed her mandate letter nearly twenty years earlier. Rather, Chamberland understood that Lizotte didn't want physicians to take extraordinary measures to keep her alive.
While it was clear her health was declining, Chamberland said it was noted she was actually less conscious of her environment and interacting.
"(Lizotte) was potentially suffering less and possibly less aware of possible suffering than she could have been at other times in recent years," Chamberland said.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press