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Quebec sword attacker given life sentence; defense says it will appeal verdict

Carl Girouard faced two counts of first-degree murder and five of attempted murder.

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QUEBEC — The man found guilty of using a sword to murder and maim in Quebec City’s historic district on Halloween night 2020 was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

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“You have committed absolutely atrocious crimes,” Quebec Superior Court Justice Richard Grenier said as he delivered Carl Girouard’s sentence at the courthouse in Quebec City.

“You took the lives of two people and you destroyed the lives of a multitude of people,” he added, noting that some survivors have physical and psychological injuries from the attacks and that their families will never be the same.

Girouard, 26, was found guilty by a jury on May 20 on two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder for the sword attacks, which began in front of Le Chateau Frontenac hotel, in the city’s historic quarter.

He murdered François Duchesne, 56, a museum employee, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, a hairdresser, and he injured five others. In addition to the two life sentences, Grenier also handed down concurrent 10-year sentences for the attempted murder convictions.

Girouard’s lawyer, Pierre Gagnon, filed a notice of appeal on Thursday alleging three errors in law committed by the trial judge. One of the errors, Gagnon says, is that the judge failed to properly explain to jurors how they should interpret Girouard’s silence during the police interrogation after his arrest of him.

The trial heard Girouard drove from his home north of Montreal with a Japanese-style sword called a katana, which had a 76.9-centimeter blade. Wearing black jogging pants, black leather boots, a short-sleeved kimono and a black mask, Girouard proceeded to attack people he came across on the street.

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Girouard admitted to committing the acts, but claimed he was not criminally responsible by way of mental disorder; the Crown argued the attacks were premeditated and Girouard knew right from wrong.

Earlier Friday, the court heard from relatives of murder victims Duchesne and Clermont.

“Sadness invades me every time I think of him, and this sadness will follow us until our last breath,” one of Duchesne’s sisters, Marie-Josée, told the court via video. “Nothing can ever cure this absence.”

Clermont’s sister-in-law, Marie-Claude Veilleux, described how the victim’s spouse felt after witnessing the “horror” committed by Girouard.

“He had to get psychotherapy for many months so that today, he can keep his head above water,” Veilleux testified. “It’s a life sentence.”

She paid tribute to Clermont as someone who loved life.

“Suzanne was an asset to society — I don’t know if one day you will become one,” Veilleux said, inviting Girouard to reflect on the harm he inflicted. “But in the meantime, you have a huge liability to repay.”

Outside the courtroom, Crown prosecutor Francois Godin saluted the courage of those who came forward to describe their grief.

“It was important for them to do it,” Godin told reporters. “I want to highlight their strength of character in what they did today in court.”

Grenier had delayed sentencing while awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada on consecutive life sentences. On May 27, the high court declared unconstitutional a 2011 Criminal Code provision that allowed a judge, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

Grenier said he agreed with the verdict against Girouard, but he said he was convinced the killer suffered from mental problems and recommended he be examined and get psychiatric help while detained. He also urged Girouard to take advantage of his time in prison and learn a trade.

Girouard won’t be eligible for parole before Oct. 31, 2045.

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