Aurore!  The Mystery of the Martyred Child

Marie-Anne Houde is Sentenced to Death

The most dramatic moment in the legal proceedings surrounding the death of Aurore Gagnon took place on Wednesday, April 21, 1920, when the woman who journalists called "the cruel stepmother" or "the Gagnon woman" received her verdict. Since all the evidence of the Crown and the defence had been heard, this was the last day of the trial. Justice Pelletier took his time giving his instructions to the jury members (his address lasted almost 3 hours). It was clear from his speech that he gave little weight to the plea of insanity that Marie-Anne Houde's lawyers had been arguing since the beginning of the week. The jury retired and deliberated for only ten minutes. In a verdict that reflected Justice Pelletier's instructions — and no doubt the crowd's expectations — the members of the jury rejected the argument of insanity and found Marie-Anne Houde guilty of murdering her stepdaugher, Aurore Gagnon. According to the Canadian criminal code of 1892, a person found guilty of murder was to be condemned to death. Marie-Anne Houde's fate was practically sealed. Choked with emotion and having difficulty controlling his voice, Justice Pelletier pronounced the death sentence and condemned Marie-Anne Houde to be hanged by the neck on October 1, 1920.

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Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History