“There are innocent persons in prisons – you have one in front of you,” Delisle told the fifth estate's Mark Kelley in an exclusive interview from a maximum-security prison outside Montreal.
On a quiet November morning in Quebec City in 2009, Delisle called 9-1-1 with the news that Nicole Rainville, his wife of nearly 50 years, had killed herself.
From the start, Delisle’s family believed it was suicide – Rainville had suffered a stroke two years earlier, leaving her seriously depressed and partially paralyzed on one side.
But seven months later, in a shocking development, Delisle was charged with her murder.
Delisle was scheduled to testify in his own defence, but at the last minute, decided to stay silent. A jury found Delisle guilty of premeditated murder, and the 77-year-old was automatically sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
Prior to his conviction in 2012, Delisle was one of the most respected judges in Canada, sitting on the Quebec Superior Court and then the Court of Appeal for 15 years.
'I still love you'
Now, in an exclusive interview forthe fifth estate and Radio Canada’s Enquete program, Delisle reveals why he chose not to take the stand in his trial.
He recounts how, following his arrest, he realized he’d have to confess to the lesser crime of assisted suicide in order to beat the charge of murder.
Delisle told Mark Kelley he wants people to understand the story of his relationship with his wife and her downward spiral after her stroke and a badly broken hip two years later.
He says on that day in November, Rainville told him she wanted to die. “She said, 'Jacques, go and fetch your gun, load it for me, and give it to me, and leave me alone.'”
After a long conversation, Delisle went into his study to retrieve his handgun – a gift from a friend – and left it on the table near his wife. He begged her to reconsider.
“I tried my best to convince her not to do it. I told Nicole, 'I still love you, and am here to take care of you.'”
Shortly after breakfast, Delisle left to run errands, believing his wife would not use the gun. But upon his return, he says he saw her “on the couch with a lot of blood on her face.”
When the police arrived on the scene, Delisle told them his wife had got the gun on her own. He says he didn’t want their family to know he had helped Rainville commit suicide.
Eventually, when it became clear Delisle’s part in Rainville’s death would come up in his testimony, Delisle asked his lawyer to tell his children the truth.
On the night Delisle was meant to testify, his daughter-in-law Dominique Marceau came to him on behalf of his family and asked him not to take the stand, which would mean revealing the part he played to the public. At the time, the family was convinced that he had a strong case and would be cleared of murder, even without his own testimony.
“I think [during] a family tragedy,” Marceau toldthe fifth estate, “you don’t think about what’s good or bad, you live it. I understand today that it was the truth and it should have been done, but at that moment I felt I needed to tell him that it would impact us.”
Faced with the pleadings of his family, Delisle made a pivotal decision not to testify. Reflecting on the choice, he says, “That was not a smart decision to make. That was a sentimental decision I made. I thought of my family first.”
“After her burial, I almost every day went to pay a visit to the cemetery, and often I asked Nicole, did I do the right thing? Legally speaking, it’s a crime, but that didn’t cross my mind that morning. That morning I was acting out of love of Nicole.”