Jacques Delisle, a former Quebec judge who was found guilty in 2012 of killing his wife, could get a new trial after a review of his case concluded a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
Mr. Delisle was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2009 death of Nicole Rainville, and was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. The Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal in 2013 and the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear his case.
A statement from Justice Minister David Lametti’s office said on Wednesday that information was brought forward that was not before the courts at the time of the trial or appeal.
“Following a thorough review, and the identification of new information, I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in Mr. Delisle’s case and that there should be a new trial,” Mr. Lametti said.
Mr. Delisle, who is now 86 years old, was 77 when he was jailed in 2012. He was a judge for 23 years, including on the Quebec Superior Court and Quebec’s Court of Appeal, the province’s highest court. Mr. Delisle retired in April, 2009, and his wife died on Nov. 12, 2009.
Lawyer James Lockyer, who took on Mr. Delisle’s case in 2014, after court appeals were exhausted, said the criminal justice system made a terrible mistake.
“How could a system in the first prosecution in the Western world of a judge for murder get it so wrong? In my view, there’s no doubt that Mr. Delisle’s wife, Nicole Rainville, committed suicide,” Mr. Lockyer said.
Mr. Delisle responded with quiet gratitude when he received the news of the decision from Mr. Lockyer last Thursday.
“He was very quiet and very grateful. It was a short conversation. I think he just needed to go away and think about it,” Mr. Lockyer said.
“He’s been in [prison] from the age of 77 to the age of 86. It’s pretty awful what he’s experienced, dreadful. The one thing I think that kept him going is that there are two children, Élène and Jean, and indeed the whole extended family, could never believe for a moment that their father killed their mother.”
Mr. Lockyer said he wrote a brief to support the application for a new trial containing the views of eight pathologists and neuropathologists that contradict the pathologist whose evidence helped convict Mr. Delisle. That pathologist concluded the trajectory of the bullet that killed Ms. Rainville could be determined by drawing a line from the entry wound on the left side of her forehead to the bullet found at the back of her brain.
The pathologist said this trajectory, combined with other evidence, indicated that Ms. Rainville was not the person who held the gun.
“The pathologist was quite wrong,” Mr. Lockyer said. “In fact, the bullet traversed from her left forehead to her right forehead, and then ricocheted inside her skull, as is well known .22 bullets do.”
He said the pathologist at the autopsy had not noticed shards of the bullet that showed on x-rays on the right side of her brain. “If he had seen them, it would have alerted him to the fact that this had to be a ricochet,” indicating a trajectory that pointed to suicide rather than murder.
The Justice Minister’s office said that determining whether a miscarriage of justice occurred involves examining the information submitted in support of the application, and an in-depth investigation. All relevant material is considered, including new evidence.
“This is not a decision about the guilt or innocence of the applicant. Rather, the decision leads to the case being returned to the justice system, where the relevant legal issues may be determined by the courts according to the law,” the statement said.
Mr. Delisle’s case has been remitted to the Quebec Superior Court.
Quebec’s independent prosecution office now has to decide whether it would have a reasonable prospect of a conviction and if it would be in the public interest to hold a new trial. Audrey Roy-Cloutier, a spokesperson for the prosecution service, said the service is analyzing the file, including the new expert opinions, and will have no further comment until the next scheduled hearing in the case.
Mr. Lockyer said he would attempt to have Mr. Delisle released soon on bail.
He said he has spoken to the Quebec prosecution office and does not know if it intends to put Mr. Delisle on trial again.
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.