Sword-wielding attacker in Quebec City guilty of first-degree murder

The 26-year-old man who carried out the Quebec City Halloween sword attacks has been convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of François Duchesne, 56, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, the October 31, 2020.

The jury of 11 delivered its verdict in the Quebec City court on Friday, after nearly five days of deliberation.

Carl Girouard was also convicted of five counts of attempted murder for his attacks on five other people that night.

Girouard sported a freshly shaven head and stood up as the jury returned its verdict. He seemed stiff and stoic as he listened.

Lisa Mahmoud, one of Girouard’s surviving victims, was present in the courtroom. She could be seen holding hands with a friend and Suzanne Clermont’s sister-in-law as they awaited the verdict.

Mahmoud said she was really relieved by the verdict.

“I find it hard to rejoice in the misfortune of others, but I am very happy that the jury made the right decision,” he said.

“He’s going to have a very bad life and that’s what he chose.”

Mahmoud said reliving the events of that day and seeing Girouard again during the trial was difficult, but she was glad she was able to share her story in court.

Girouard assaulted Mahmoud at least 10 times with the saber, including stabbing her in the stomach. Mahmoud drew the sword from her abdomen while her friend distracted Girouard. They then both fled.

She said she still feels angry and is working hard in rehab to try to get her motor skills back, hoping to return to her career as a hairdresser.

“I feel stronger now. I am 26 years old. I have my life ahead of me,” Mahmoud said. “He doesn’t own my life, or his own life now,” he added, referring to Girouard.

Suzanne Clermont’s sister-in-law, Marie-Claude Veilleux, said she was also pleased with the ruling.

“Society will be protected from this dangerous individual. Unfortunately, it is too late for Suzanne Clermont and François Duchesne,” Veilleux told reporters at the courthouse.

“[The verdict] It won’t bring back our loved ones, but it will at least protect society.”

Veilleux said that attending the trial was difficult, but that he felt it was his duty to be there every day.

The Crown argued that Girouard had thought for years about carrying out the attacks and was aware of what he was doing at the time of his crimes.

Two expert witnesses for the Crown testified that the defendant was a hypervigilant narcissist who felt the need to do something shocking to gain public recognition.

Crown prosecutor François Godin, left, and Carl Girouard’s lawyer Pierre Gagnon, right, presented their closing arguments in Quebec City court last week. (Dave St-Amant/CBC)

Defense team to appeal

Girouard’s lawyer, Pierre Gagnon, said his client was disappointed with the ruling and intends to appeal.

“The verdict is clearly not in line with the arguments that we presented to the jury,” Gagnon said.

He said the four days the jury spent deliberating allowed the defense team to review what happened during the trial and identify points they could use on appeal.

That includes the five hours the prosecutor spent questioning Girouard and his interpretation of Girouard’s lack of answers to the jury.

Girouard admitted carrying out the attacks, but his defense team argued that he could not be held criminally responsible because he was delusional and psychotic at the time and, as a result, unable to tell right from wrong.

During the trial, Girouard testified that he was facing an internal battle between two Carls, the “real” one and a “bad Carl” obsessed with the mission of killing.

The Crown argued that Girouard could not have been delusional at the time, because he showed signs of hesitation before the attacks and expressed doubts about what he was doing after hitting his first couple of victims.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Sylvain Faucher, who testified on behalf of the Crown, explained that a delusion is an irrefutable belief and that it is impossible to get rid of it so quickly without medication.

Forensic psychiatrist Sylvain Faucher, left, and neuropsychologist William Pothier, right, testified on behalf of the Crown. (Radio-Canada)

Prosecutors produced evidence suggesting that Girouard had been planning the attack since he was a teenager: He twice drove to Quebec City’s historic district two years before the events, prepared his costume in advance and removed some tattoos that Girouard considered ” impure”.

The jury, made up of four men and seven women, heard that Girouard first told a social worker and a school counselor about his mission at the age of 18.

Sentencing hearing scheduled for June

Girouard faces life in prison and will not be eligible for parole for at least 25 years. His trial, which began on April 11, had to be delayed twice after some jurors tested positive for COVID-19.

He will return to court on June 10 for his sentencing hearing. Many victims intend to testify at that hearing, the prosecutor informed the judge.

The Crown is awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on the Quebec City mosque shooter case. The Supreme Court must decide whether a person can accumulate consecutive sentences for murdering multiple people.

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