Jacques Delisle, a respected Quebec jurist who served on the bench for nearly a quarter century, was found guilty in 2012 of first-degree murder in the death of Nicole Rainville.
In interviews with the CBC and Radio-Canada this week, the incarcerated Delisle said he left a loaded gun for Rainville, 71, to take her own life in November 2009 and tried to talk her out of it, but he insisted he didn't kill her.
Delisle's relatives and Ontario-based lawyer James Lockyer held a news conference Friday to formally ask for a ministerial review of the case, which Justice Minister Peter MacKay said later in the day would take place.
Rainville suffered a stroke on her 69th birthday and became partially paralyzed. She sank into depression before breaking her hip two years later.
Delisle was to have testified at his own trial but, at his family's request, never took the stand. They had just learned about his role in the death and were reportedly devastated.
A jury found Delisle guilty of premeditated murder and the province's Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld that ruling in 2013.
When police arrived at the house the day of the death, Delisle lied and said his wife had gone to get the gun by herself.
Asked in the interviews why he lied, he replied: "Because I didn't want the family to know what really happened that morning. I didn't want the family to know I helped Nicole commit suicide."
Lockyer said Crown forensics experts at Delisle's trial concluded that Rainville must have been murdered, while the defence argued she had to have taken her own life.
"You could hardly have a more clear split between the experts," Lockyer told a Quebec City news conference.
"It's apparent from the verdict the jury accepted the evidence of the Crown expert. I believe they were wrong to do so."
The Centre of Forensic Sciences, an Ontario laboratory, could settle the matter after examining the ballistics evidence anew, Lockyer said. The lab has not yet fully confirmed it will take part in the process but, if it does, any reports they issue will be sent to all parties.
Lockyer also believes the fact Delisle did not testify "played a huge role in his wrongful conviction."
The Ontario lawyer, who founded the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, said he has sent MacKay affidavits from Delisle and his son and daughter in an attempt to explain why the judge did not testify.
"We tend to forget in criminal proceedings that it's a human process and that events can occur out of court that can dictate the events that then transpire in court," Lockyer said.
Hours before Delisle was to take the stand, his family, led by daughter-in-law Dominique, "urged him, pleaded with him, cajoled him, into not testifying, for the sake of themselves and the grandchildren," Lockyer said.
"They did not want the world to hear that their father had helped their mother, their grandmother, commit suicide."
His son, Jean, also attended the Quebec City news conference and made a passionate plea for the release of his father, calling him "the victim of a serious judicial error."
"We are certain that my father did not kill our mother," he said. "My father loved my mother deeply until the end of her days. He was a good husband, attentive, devoted and loving. The exemplary way in which he looked after her during her illness is the proof.
"We loved our mother deeply and if we weren't convinced of our father's innocence, we wouldn't be here today.
"We'll never know whether the verdict would have been different had my father testified and told the truth about what happened on the morning of Nov. 12, 2009. One thing's for sure, though. The result couldn't have been worse."
Delisle will turn 80 in May. He is admissible for parole in 2037 and Lockyer's organization says he will die in prison without a reprieve.
The lawyer, who has been responsible for exposing wrongful convictions in the high-profile cases of David Milgaard and Guy-Paul Morin, said he's confident he can also win this one.
MacKay cannot acquit Delisle but can order a new trial or send the case back to the appeals court. Lockyer said returning a case to the appeals court usually results in an acquittal since the Crown tends to abandon a retrial.
Delisle's lengthy legal career could limit MacKay's options, but the justice minister said there are ways to deal with Delisle's request and he assured there would be a careful examination.
"It is obviously unique in that it involves a former judge," MacKay said after a funding announcement in Montreal.
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