A man convicted of suffocating his ailing wife will be sentenced today at the Montreal courthouse, in a decision the presiding judge said will be one of the most difficult in her career on the bench.
Michel Cadotte was found guilty of manslaughter in February in the death of Jocelyne Lizotte, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
During the trial, Cadotte admitted to smothering Lizotte at the long-term care facility where she was living. She had lost complete physical and cognitive autonomy, the court heard.
Testifying in his own defence, Cadotte said he killed Lizotte because he couldn’t stand seeing his wife 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.
Crown prosecutor Geneviève Langlois argued Cadotte should get an eight-year prison sentence.
She told the judge the sentence needs to send a message to society that it’s not right to cause someone’s death — even when there is suffering, even when one feels worn down — “because human life is sacred.”
Cadotte clouded by depression: defence
Cadotte’s lawyers, for their part, portrayed Cadotte 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.
Nicolas Welt, one of his lawyers, asked for a sentence of between six and 12 months, including the five months Cadotte spent in jail after his wife’s death, before his release on bail.
Welt argued the sentence is not about sending a message. He said, if anything, the message is that caregivers must ask for help and recognize when they need it.
The victim impact statements featured emotional testimony that left several people in the courtroom, including the judge, in tears as family members described the impact of Lizotte’s illness and death.
At that hearing, Quebec Superior Court Justice Hélène Di Salvo said the sentencing will be one of the hardest decisions she’s ever had to make.
“I want to tell you that I will talk about Jocelyne in my decision,” Di Salvo told the court at the time. “It won’t bring her back. It won’t bring her health back. It won’t erase Alzheimer’s.”
“The work I will have done won’t please everybody, but keep in mind that it will take into account your testimonies and the situation, and in no way will it condone what happened.”