Michel Cadotte arrives at the courthouse for his sentencing in Montreal on Tuesday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
A Montreal man has been sentenced to two years less a day for killing his wife, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Michel Cadotte, 58, was found guilty of manslaughter in February in the death of Jocelyne Lizotte, 60.
After handing down the sentence, Quebec Superior Court Justice Hélène Di Salvo told Lizotte’s family it was the “hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
“I hope you can live your grief privately, and as a family,” she said at the Montreal courthouse.
During the trial, Cadotte admitted to smothering Lizotte at the long-term care facility where she was living in February 2017. She had lost complete physical and cognitive autonomy, the court heard.
Cadotte testified he killed his wife because he couldn’t stand seeing her continue to suffer.
The court heard that Cadotte had made inquiries about how to seek medical assistance in dying on his wife’s behalf in 2014.
He was told Lizotte would be ineligible because her death was not imminent, and she was not coherent enough to consent — key criteria under Quebec’s law.
Jocelyne Lizotte, left, and her sister Johanne Lizotte are seen in this undated handout photo provided by Quebec Superior Court. (Handout/Quebec Superior Court/The Canadian Press)
In delivering the sentence, Di Salvo characterized Cadotte as “a man in love who was exhausted and couldn’t stand to see his wife suffering any longer.” But what he did was irreparable, she said.
Di Salvo told the packed courtroom that whatever the motivation, even in the name of compassion, illegally causing the death of another human must be punished.
Cadotte will also be subject to three years’ probation as part of the sentence.
Speaking outside the courtroom, Cadotte’s lawyers said they were disappointed by the sentence.
“All [Cadotte] wanted was for [Lizotte] to be in a facility where she could get the proper help because of her condition — nothing else,” said defence lawyer Elfriede Duclervil.
She and Cadotte’s other lawyer, Nicolas Welt, portrayed the accused as an exhausted caregiver. They argued their client’s judgment on the day of his wife’s death was clouded by a major depression and years of suffering.
They had asked for a sentence of between six and 12 months, including the five months Cadotte spent in jail after his wife’s death.
Duclervil cited testimony from a member of the Alzheimer’s society, who said 25 per cent of Quebecers are unpaid caregivers in situations similar to Cadotte’s.
She said Cadotte’s case is spurring the conversation on the physical and emotional risks unpaid caregivers face.
“It is a cry. As a society, what are we going to do? What are we going to ask of our government?”
Crown wanted 8 years
Crown prosecutor Antonio Parapuf said it’s too early to determine whether they will challenge the sentence.
“We have to take time to analyze what was said, and to see if it’s a fit sentence, or if there’s any error that was made,” Parapuf said.
The Crown had sought an eight-year sentence. Crown prosecutor Geneviève Langlois had told the judge the sentence needed to send a message to society that it’s not right to cause someone’s death, even when there is suffering, “because human life is sacred.”
Family members hug outside the courtroom prior to the sentencing of Michel Cadotte. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
Lizotte’s family, including her sister and two sons, attended the proceedings but declined to comment.
During sentencing arguments in March, their victim impact statements left several people in the courtroom, including the judge, in tears as they described the impact of Lizotte’s illness and death.
Her two sons told the court Cadotte’s decision to end Lizotte’s life was an act of selfishness rather than compassion.