Murder of the little girl from Granby | The mother-in-law plays her all on appeal

Two and a half years after her conviction for the murder of her stepdaughter, the stepmother of the little girl from Granby has not said her last word. In the hope of obtaining a new trial, the murderer deplores in her appeal brief several errors committed, according to her, by the judges, from the abusive search of her phone to “inflammatory” text messages filed as evidence.

Published at 12:53 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

The murder of the “little girl from Granby” marked Quebec five years ago. Tied to a chair, the 7-year-old child died of asphyxiation from adhesive tape placed on her mouth by her tormentors. His mother-in-law’s trial concluded in December 2021 with a quick verdict of guilty of second-degree murder. The 40-year-old woman was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 13 years.

Since then, the appeal procedures have dragged on. It was only in the last few weeks that the mother-in-law and the Crown finally produced their appeal brief. As the parties have still not argued before the Court of Appeal, a decision this year seems unlikely. Especially since the file is 15,000 pages long.

The stepmother is seeking a new trial on eight separate grounds. In an appeal brief of around forty pages obtained by The Presshis lawyer, Me Maxime Hébert Lafontaine, notes several “decisive” and “serious” errors made by three judges. The Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) replies that the judges made no error.

Text messages obtained without authorization

The text message exchanges between the girl’s stepmother and father were at the heart of the trial. And they are at the heart of the appeal. According to the appellant, Judge François Huot should have excluded them from the evidence, since they were obtained by violating the rights of the accused. In fact, the investigator searched the woman’s cell phone before obtaining judicial authorization.

Judge Huot concluded before the trial that the investigator should not have proceeded in this way, because there was “no urgency”. Even if there was a violation of the accused’s rights, the judge considered that the state intrusion was “minimal”, since the police officer had “documented his actions”.

On appeal, the mother-in-law insists that the judge did not adequately consider the “seriousness” of the police officer’s conduct. The impact of this violation on the rights of the accused is “very serious, even extreme”, according to the appellant.

At trial, the Crown used certain text messages to demonstrate that the stepmother had developed a “dislike” and “disgust” for the little girl. In fact, these feelings had been with him for a long time, the prosecution said, based on the exchanges.

According to the appellant, Judge Louis Dionne erred in allowing the submission of these text messages as proof of “propensity” or “unworthy conduct”.

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Evidence filed during the trial of the mother-in-law of the little girl from Granby

The appellant maintains that the text messages were of an “inflammatory nature”, highlighting the accused’s bad morals towards her daughter-in-law in the months preceding the murder. This “dishonorable” evidence presented the accused in a “very reprehensible” manner, continues the appellant. Texting should therefore be excluded.

Furthermore, Judge Dionne gave no instructions to the jury on this type of evidence. A “serious” error of law, according to the appellant.

According to the DPCP, the judge on the contrary carefully considered the harmful effect of the text messages before rendering his decision. He also excluded it for this reason. Also, the accused’s text messages were “very important” to understand her “state of mind”, notes the Crown.

The “path” called into question

The appellant also criticizes Judge Dionne for having allowed the charge of murder to be opened by a less traveled route. Typically, a person is charged with murder because they intended to cause the victim’s death or injury knowing that it would kill them.

But at the stepmother’s trial, this standard “path” was not permitted. To find her guilty of second degree murder, the jury had to conclude that she had confined the child for an “unlawful purpose”. A fairly complex analysis grid. However, according to the appellant, this “path” could not apply. This is why the defense only requested the opening of a verdict of involuntary manslaughter.

Furthermore, the judge erred in his instructions, according to the appellant, by not explaining to the jurors that they had to consider the state of panic of the accused at the time of the events. At the trial, the mother-in-law testified that she had been “paralyzed” by the actions of her partner and that she had “collapsed into tears,” recalls the brief. However, the judge did not remind the jury of these elements.

Finally, the appellant criticizes Judge Charles Ouellet for having changed the judicial district where the trial would be held without letting the parties decide. However, the judge had repeated “several times” to the parties that he would ask their opinion before ruling.

The story so far

April 28 to 29, 2019
The 7-year-old girl is killed by her stepmother. The child had been tied to a chair.

December 9, 2021
The stepmother of the little girl from Granby is found guilty of second-degree murder and false imprisonment.

January 7, 2022
The girl’s father is sentenced to four years in prison. He had pleaded guilty to one count of false imprisonment.



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