THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MONTREAL - A grieving mother had one request for outraged Quebecers after a jury let her ex-husband, who repeatedly stabbed their children to death, off without jail time: vengeance is not the answer.
Pending a psychiatric evaluation, Guy Turcotte might now walk free within weeks despite having admitted to killing the two youngsters.
The level of outrage over the decision was made clear as social-networking sites exploded with the news as regular Quebecers took to the Internet to express their disgust.
It was the children's mother, Isabelle Gaston, who appealed for calm. Despite expressing her own shock at the verdict, she urged the public against resorting to vigilantism.
"Wish us peace," Gaston, a physician, told reporters at the courthouse in St-Jerome, just outside Montreal.
"No violence against whomever — even the father, or myself — ... would restore justice."
The shocking details of the case have been front and centre in the news for the past few months as the sensational trial made Turcotte a household name in Quebec.
Turcotte had been charged with first-degree murder after police found his son Olivier, 5, and daughter Anne-Sophie, 3, dead in their beds.
They had been stabbed 46 times.
While the 39-year-old ex-cardiologist admitted to having caused their deaths, in a rented home north of Montreal in 2009, he denied criminal intent.
The defence focused on Turcotte's state of mind at the time of the killings and dragged out its closing argument over an exhaustive four days, compared to the prosecution's several hours.
Turcotte testified that he only remembered flashes of the evening; experts testifying on his behalf said he was not aware of his actions that night, just weeks after his marriage had ended.
His lawyers argued that the former cardiologist loved his children but was unable to cope with the breakup of his marriage and he was feeling increasingly marginalized by Gaston's new beau.
Turcotte said he planned to end his own life on the night of Feb. 20, 2009, after reading e-mails between Gaston and her new lover, her personal trainer Martin Huot.
He started drinking windshield washer fluid to that end, but decided at some point that he didn't want his children to wake up the following morning and find their father dead.
So, according to his testimony, Turcotte decided that he'd take the children with him.
Only he didn't die. Police found Turcotte the next day cowering under a bed.
Gaston sought to share a lesson with the public at large, to honour the memory of Olivier and Anne-Sophie.
"We have to understand that adults don't have a right to life and death of a child, they don't have a right to violence, even if there's conflict and torture in their own lives," Gaston said.
Justice Marc David had told the jury of seven women and four men they had several possible verdicts from which to choose: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, or not criminally responsible for reason of mental illness.
Acquittal was not an option.
It was a long haul for the jury, which heard from nearly 40 witnesses and expert testimony from mental-health professionals during the two-month trial.
Turcotte will briefly head back to jail before being moved to a psychiatric hospital where he will undergo an evaluation by Quebec's review board for mental disorder to determine whether he should be released.
Hundreds of people took to Twitter and other social media to discuss the verdict.
Several major Quebec television personalities even weighed in to express their own personal disgust with the outcome.
"Very, very, very disappointing verdict. Criminally not responsible! I don't believe it," wrote Guy A. Lepage, host of popular television talk show Tout le monde en parle, on his own Twitter account.
Another prominent Quebec TV personality, Julie Snyder, wrote that she was crying while thinking of the verdict: "I'm astonished," she added.
Veteran lawyer Robert La Haye said the public's emotional response is not surprising, but it's important to remember that juries are not supposed to be populist forums.
He said they render justice based on evidence.
"They weighed the evidence, dissected it and decided at the end of the day, and concluded reasonably and without emotion," La Haye said.
"Once the emotion is gone, we can say that there were 12 people there who were best placed to decide what the evidence revealed."
Meanwhile, the children's tearful mother asked outside the courtroom to be left alone so she could get on with her life.
She wept as she thanked Olivier and Anne-Sophie for all they had given her. She said she wished for a sign that, wherever they are, they are happy.
She said she'd prepared herself for any eventual verdict, but called the end result disappointing.
"I'm in shock," she said.
"I'm disappointed for Olivier and Anne-Sophie and all children who could be in danger because of a simple separation like ours."
Gaston said society can still be proud of its justice system — "even with this verdict" — as she praised the work of police and prosecutors.
Prosecutor Claudia Carbonneau said the Crown would take its time before deciding whether to appeal. If an appael happens, Gaston said she won't sit through another trial.
The case continued with 11 jurors after one was outed for having exhibited a clear bias against Turcotte.