Guy Turcotte Guilty of Second-degree Murder


On Sunday, December 6, 2015, Guy Turcotte was found guilty of the second-degree murder of his children. The automatic sentence for the crime is life in prison, with a possibility of being released after a number of years. In the next few weeks, the judge will decide the minimum amount of time Turcotte will have to spend behind bars.

In this article, Éducaloi explains the main legal concepts related to Turcotte’s case.


Criminally Responsible

This was Guy Turcotte’s second trial. His lawyers used the same defense as they did in his first trial. They argued that he is not criminally responsible because at the time he caused the death of his children, he was suffering from a mental illness that prevented him from knowing right from wrong.

The jury in his first trial accepted this defence, but the jury in his second trial did not. This time, the jury found that Turcotte was, in fact, criminally responsible and convicted him of murdering his children.


First- or Second-degree Murder: What’s the Difference?

Murder is when a person intends to take another’s life or to cause injuries that could lead to death.

First-degree murder is “premeditated.” This means that the person committing the murder thought about and planned it beforehand. It was not an impulsive act. The person actually took the time to think about a plan and the consequences of carrying it out, even if it was just a few minutes before the act.

Second-degree murder, or “non-premeditated murder,” is not planned. The person knows that what he or she is about to do can lead to death but doesn’t care.

Important! There are exceptions. For example, killing a police officer is always first-degree murder, even if it wasn’t premeditated.


Life Imprisonment

Whether the murder is first or second degree, the sentence is life in prison.   

But offenders will not necessarily spend the rest of their lives behind bars. They can be released under special conditions (called a “conditional release”) and do part of their sentence outside prison.

  • A person found guilty of first-degree murder can ask for a conditional release only after spending 25 years in prison.
  • For second-degree murder, the minimum time in prison is 10 years, but the judge can extend it up to 25 years.

We will find out in the next few weeks how much time Turcotte will have to spend in prison.


The Turcotte Case

In 2011, Guy Turcotte was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity for causing the death of this children.

In 2013, the Quebec Court of Appeal set aside this verdict. The judges ordered a new trial for Guy Turcotte because they found that the instructions given to the jury in the first trial were not clear.

Guy Turcotte appealed the 2013 decision to the Supreme Court of Canada because he didn’t want to go through another trial. The court refused his appeal.

In September 2015, Guy Turcotte was tried a second time. This is the trial that just ended in a conviction of second-degree murder.