Justice Delisle, a 1957 graduate of Laval University was admitted to the Quebec Bar in 1958. He was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court in 1983 and promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1992. He retired last year.
According to the Criminal Lawyer Jean-Pierre Rancourt, Delisle J. was a well-respected and competent judge. Renald Beaudry, another criminal lawyer who also pleaded cases before Delisle J., described him as a level-handed and intellectual judge.
On November 2009, Quebec City Police received a call from Delisle J.’s house about a possible suicide. Though they initially believed it to be a case of suicide, Sandra Dion, the police spokeswoman, said that further investigation led them to lay first-degree murder charges against Justice Delisle in mid June in connection with the death of his wife, Marie-Nicole Rainville. The deceased was wheelchair bound, following a stroke that she suffered from two years ago, raising doubts that the murder may have been an act of compassion – reminiscent of Latimer v. R. (difference being that in Latimer the victim was the guy’s daughter who had cerebral palsy).
The former Justice Delisle was arrested on June 15th on charges of first-degree murder and illegal possession of a weapon. However, just about a week later on June 23rd, Justice Claude Gagnon of Quebec Superior Court got Delisle to agree to a $100,000 bail, which his daughter Helene Delisle and former law partner Pierre Cimon put together to release the first member of the Canadian judiciary to be charged with murder.
It is certain that 26 years of sitting on the Quebec bench doesn’t help in making his trial impartial. So how are the officials to handle a case with so high a level of sensitivity?
Well for one, the Crown Prosecutors that are going to be nominated should not have known the former judge. Also the presiding Judge must come from somewhere other than Quebec. Gangon J. who released the former judge on bail has claimed that he did not personally know Delisle or his family. The two crown prosecutors, Lune Morais and Charles Levasseur “have limited ties to Quebec City, and do not know Delisle nor have ever pleaded a case before [him]” the Lawyers Weekly writes.
Another step taken in ensuring impartiality is what’s termed as a “pre-inquiry”. This procedure, which is only initiated in highly sensitive cases, involves having the testimony heard privately before a judge ex parte (without having to have all the parties present) and in camera (in private). This is made possible by s.507.1 of the Criminal Code:
507. (1) Subject to subsection 523(1.1), a justice who receives an information laid under section 504 by a peace officer, a public officer, the Attorney General or the Attorney General’s agent, other than an information laid before the justice under section 505, shall, except if an accused has already been arrested with or without a warrant:
(a) hear and consider, ex parte,
- the allegations of the informant, and
- the evidence of witnesses, where he considers it desirable or necessary to do so; and
(b) where he considers that a case for so doing is made out, issue, in accordance with this section, either a summons or a warrant for the arrest of the accused to compel the accused to attend before him or some other justice for the same territorial division to answer to a charge of an offence.