Judge to rule Feb. 8 whether Quebec mosque killer gets 150-year sentence

QUEBEC — The man who killed six people inside a Quebec City mosque last year will learn Feb. 8 whether he spends the rest of his life behind bars.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Francois Huot heard final sentencing arguments Wednesday for Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty in March to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.

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The Crown is asking that Bissonnette receive six consecutive life sentences for the 2017 murders, meaning he would not be eligible for parole before serving 150 years in prison.

The defence has argued the sentences should be served concurrently, meaning the killer, 28, could seek parole after 25 years.

A sentencing hearing was held in June, and a decision was originally expected in October. But Huot requested additional information on the constitutionality of consecutive life sentences.

In court Wednesday, the judge asked whether a mass killer such as Bissonnette is as blameworthy as a serial killer or a hit man.

"If the Crown today argues for 150 years for Mr. Bissonnette, what are you going to ask me one day for these serial killers or contract killers?" he asked.

Crown prosecutor Thomas Jacques replied that Bissonnette, who walked into a mosque in the provincial capital in January 2017 and opened fire, committed one of the worst hate crimes in Canadian legal history.

He said someone who, like Bissonnette, kills six people in the space of 90 seconds is clearly just as blameworthy as someone who kills the same number of people over a period of months.

"It seems to me extremely dangerous and harmful to send the message through the courts that a multiple killer, who kills a multitude of people in a single incident, has less moral culpability than someone who kills just as many over a much longer period," Jacques said.

He noted that Bissonnette had plenty of ammunition when he attacked the mosque. "He was looking for glory," he said, prompting Bissonnette to furrow his brow in the prisoner's box.

Bissonnette's lawyer, Charles-Olivier Gosselin, argued that a sentence of 150 years would be counter to sentencing principles under Canadian law.

"All the debates that have taken place — social, political and scientific — all that is being called into question, and we say that we're going to simply imprison people, who yes have committed serious murders, but we're going to imprison them without any possibility of parole," Gosselin said.

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