Judging the Judge: From Glory to Jail

jacques-delisle-fifth-estate-interview

Jacques Delisle is the first judge in Canadian history to be charged with murder. He was born in 1935. He sat on the Quebec Superior Court and then on the Quebec Court of Appeal, the highest court in Quebec. After his retirement in 2009, his wife tragically died of a gunshot to the head.

Did he kill her?

On June 14, 2012, he was found guilty of first degree murder. The case was heard before a judge and a jury. The prosecution presented evidence of his affair with his long-time secretary. This along with his refusal to testify on his own behalf was fatal to the defence’s case.

“In order for the burden of proof to remain with the Crown, the silence of the accused should not be used against him or her in building the case for guilt.”- R. v. Noble, [1997] 1 S.C.R. 874

It is an error of law for judges or juries to draw an inference against the accused for his failure to testify, doing so undermines the right to remain silent. But here’s the problem, even if people know that they should separate the failure to testify and the adulterous affair from the facts, the brain does not want to do so. In Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman writes about how the brain is a “machine for jumping to conclusions”.

Based on the CBC Fifth Estate’s documentary Murder and The Judge, it seems that his failure to testify was used against him. It was used to infer guilt, perhaps even unconsciously by the jurors. Furthermore, the ballistic evidence presented in the documentary shows that Delisle’s wife committed suicide. If this is true, then it is truly disturbing that an elderly man awaits death in a jail cell for a crime he did not commit.

One has to wonder, did people (including the jurors) take delight from his fall from grace?

Learn more from the excellent documentary: http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/2014-2015/murder-and-the-judge

And the Quebec Court of Appeal decision: Delisle c. R., 2013 QCCA 952

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