Joudrie Not Guilty | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Joudrie Not Guilty

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on May 20, 1996. Partner content is not updated.

It was nearly 48 hours since the jury had begun its deliberations - and that followed more than two weeks of complex, emotion-packed testimony. And so when it finally came, the denouement of Dorothy Joudrie's attempted murder trial in Calgary late last week seemed all the more sudden.

Joudrie Not Guilty

It was nearly 48 hours since the jury had begun its deliberations - and that followed more than two weeks of complex, emotion-packed testimony. And so when it finally came, the denouement of Dorothy Joudrie's attempted murder trial in Calgary late last week seemed all the more sudden. A hush fell over the courtroom as the forewoman of the jury rose to speak. A moment later, Joudrie gasped for breath and began sobbing softly. The 11 women and one man who passed judgment on her had found her not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder in the shooting of her ex-husband, corporate executive Earl Joudrie. She was ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment at the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton - after which a provincial review board will determine whether she should be hospitalized, discharged entirely or discharged under certain conditions. In the meantime, Dorothy, 61, was free to go. "I'm very, very happy," she said on the courthouse steps. "It's been a nightmare. It's been a terrible, terrible 15 months."

There was never much doubt about the main facts surrounding the shooting on Jan. 21, 1995. Earl Joudrie, 62, told the court that it was Dorothy who shot him six times as he was leaving her home. (The Joudries were separated at the time, and have since divorced.) And Dorothy herself conceded: "I had to have shot him, because I was the only person there." But she insisted that she had no memory of the incident. And three forensic psychiatrists told the court that Dorothy Joudrie was in a dissociative state at the time of the shooting - that she was quite simply not aware of what she was doing. One of them, Julio Arboleda-Flórez, head of the forensic division at the University of Calgary's faculty of medicine, was actually a Crown witness. It was Arboleda-Flórez, though, who made a critical distinction. He said that if Dorothy Joudrie was in a so-called automatistic state at the time of the shooting, then it was insane rather than sane automatism. The jury apparently came to the same conclusion - returning the "not criminally responsible" verdict instead of a simple "not guilty."

The verdict lit up radio talk-show lines in Calgary, with just over half of the women who called into a local CBC show the morning after the verdict saying they supported the decision. The male callers seemed uniformly skeptical. Meanwhile, Keith Joudrie, Earl's brother, stormed out of the court after the verdict was delivered, calling the trial "a travesty from the very beginning." But Earl Joudrie himself, chairman of Gulf Canada Resources Ltd. and Algoma Steel Inc., did not seem angry, even though he suffered a broken arm and a collapsed lung and still has a heart ailment as a result of the shooting. Nonetheless, after the verdict he told the Calgary Herald from Toronto that "the jury has made a decision which I must accept with equanimity." The following day, Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. announced that Joudrie would be taking a leave of absence from his job as chairman.

For his part, Dorothy Joudrie's lawyer, Noel O'Brien, called the evidence overwhelming. "This is not a case," he said, "of a person simply getting off because of some sort of imaginary defence." In arguing that Dorothy was dissociative, the defence relied on more than her testimony - pointing in particular to Earl Joudrie's account of her demeanor after the shooting. Earl testified that Dorothy's tone was "very controlled, very cold" as he lay bleeding on the floor of her garage. He said she mused about stuffing his body in the trunk of her car, and at one point asked him: "How long is it going to take you to die?" Eventually, Earl said, he heard a new voice ask: "Oh my God, what have I done?" And then, finally, Dorothy agreed to call for medical help.

Her trial attracted national attention for several reasons: the Joudries' position in the top echelons of Calgary society, revelations about their turbulent marriage, and her reliance on the uncommon defence of automatism. The Joudries met in Edmonton when Earl was 16 and Dorothy was 15. When they married in 1957, Dorothy told the court at one point, they had $25 between them. But Earl and Dorothy separated in 1989, and when they worked out a financial settlement, Dorothy's share was $1.9 million. They shared a 7,000-square-foot home in the comfortable Bearspaw area on the northwest edge of Calgary. Dorothy Joudrie described their busy social life and talked about hosting frequent dinner parties. And court heard she did extensive volunteer work, serving with charities like Easter Seals, for example, and working as volunteer protocol chairwoman for the International Olympic Committee at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. The couple shared vacation property in Hawaii and regularly attended the Kentucky Derby. And Dorothy said Earl used to give her "nice" gifts and that they went on "interesting and beautiful trips." She insisted that they really had "some good times."

But defence psychiatrists also testified that Dorothy had been in denial, focusing on the good things in her marriage and ignoring the bad. Dorothy admitted that she was an alcoholic. In addition, Earl Joudrie told the court that he and Dorothy had arguments that would escalate into "pushing and shoving on both sides," and he admitted that he struck his wife on several occasions. Hitting her "was my fault," he told the court. But he also said that their arguments usually started because Dorothy was angry about something. And Earl denied, or said that he could not recall, some of the other violent incidents that Dorothy later described - including one in which she said Earl hit her on the stomach while she was pregnant with their daughter Carolyn.

But that was many years ago: both Dorothy and Earl Joudrie told the court that he had not struck her since 1978. Crown attorney Jerry Selinger emphasized that that was 18 years ago. He argued that Dorothy Joudrie knew what she was doing - that when her husband confirmed that fateful morning that he wanted to proceed with a divorce, she carried out a plan to shoot him. Defence lawyer O'Brien, instead, talked of how Dorothy, despite their separation, had not faced the inevitability of a divorce. And he argued that Dorothy's long years of denial finally collided on the morning of the shooting with the realization that her dream of a happy marriage was over. It was that realization, he said, that launched Joudrie into a dissociative state. O'Brien asked the jury to find her unequivocally not guilty. By ruling that she was not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder, the jury did not entirely accept the defence position. But there was no conviction and Dorothy Joudrie will not go to jail - a dramatic conclusion to an even more sensational trial.

Maclean's May 20, 1996