Quebec’s top court accepts Guy Turcotte’s challenge of parole eligibility

Quebec's top court will hear the appeal of a former doctor who stabbed his children to death and was ordered to spend at least 17 years behind bars before seeking release.

MONTREAL — Quebec’s top court will hear the appeal of a former doctor who stabbed his children to death and was ordered to spend at least 17 years behind bars before seeking release.

Guy Turcotte’s attorneys were seeking permission Tuesday to appeal a Quebec Superior Court ruling that he not be allowed to apply for parole until serving a minimum of 17 years of a life sentence for two second-degree murder convictions.

Justice Marie St-Pierre of the Quebec Court of Appeal said that since the appeal was actually based on a question of law alone, permission wasn’t needed.

Instead, the challenge of the parole eligibility will be folded into an earlier appeal of his conviction.

In December, a jury found Turcotte guilty in the February 2009 deaths of Olivier, 5, and Anne-Sophie, 3, who were stabbed a total of 46 times.

Last month, Superior Court Justice Andre Vincent ruled that Turcotte, 43, must serve at least 17 years before he can seek parole.

The judge said it reflected the “heinous and horrible crimes.”

A jury found Turcotte not criminally responsible in 2011, but two years later, the province’s high court ordered a second trial, which was held last year.

His lawyers had already asked the province’s top tribunal for a third trial, citing errors in law by Vincent on more than one occasion in his instructions to the jurors.

In a separate filing, Turcotte’s lawyers also suggested that in deciding on inadmissibility, the judge did not give proper weight to Turcotte’s mental state at the time of the slayings.

Among other arguments, they also argue Vincent ignored jurisprudence that states forbidding parole eligibility until past the 15-year mark is only justified when the accused is considered a danger to society.

Prosecutor Rene Verret told reporters Tuesday the appeal might be heard later this year or early 2017.

“First the lawyers will have to produce their submissions,” Verret said. “Both appeals will be heard at the same time by the same three judges.”

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