[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Jason had the original TV hit from Global about the man he was going to see playing on his phone, next to him on the passenger seat. He listened to it several times on the drive up to the jail where Jeff Toussignant was being held. Jason rolled his eyes when he heard the breathless tone of journalist Marion Deschamps coming out of his phone.
“A man charged with first-degree murder for the death of his parents says he is blaming them for not loving him properly when he was a kid. This shocking revelation comes as Jean-François Toussignant prepares for his trial that begins next week. The 47-year-old Montreal man was arrested late last fall when police in Laval uncovered a network of underground health-care workers responsible for the death of several seniors in Laval nursing homes. Toussignant is the first to go to trial, in a case that is sure to make headlines across the country if not the world, Karen.”
The anchor, thus summoned by the reporter, dutifully read her lines. “But, Marion, why is this man going public with his defence before the trial begins? It seems unusual…”
Marion was ready for this question (which she’d of course written herself; TV news was so desperately canned): “That’s an excellent question, Karen. Toussignant’s lawyer, Paul Smith, would not comment publicly on this story other than to say he was focusing on making sure his client presented a full defence, and to add that he intended to plead not guilty, but his body language certainly suggested to me that he wasn’t entirely comfortable with his client speaking to the media like this. I’ve also asked criminal law experts about this, Karen, and they were unanimous on this, they said it is, quote, rare and shocking, unquote, for someone accused of first-degree murder to share his defence strategy with the public before the trial begins.”
That, too, was Karen’s cue for her last question: “OK, Marion, so that begs the question, why is he doing that?”
“Indeed it does, Karen, and when I put exactly that question to him Toussignant had this to say…” And here the camera cut to a close-up shot of the accused, who was obviously prepared for that question and said, “My intention is to defend myself and be acquitted of the charges of first-degree murder by showing the jury that what I did was in self-defence after being mistreated for years by parents who didn’t love me. That’s my primary goal, and yes, it’s a selfish one. But I also have another goal. I want my story to be a warning to parents everywhere to take a good look at how they’re raising their own kids and make sure they’re not making the same mistakes my parents did. I will not go into the details right now, I will do that at the trial. But I want people to pay attention to what I have to say and that is why I’ve decided to go to the media with my story.”
The breathless reporter came back on camera, with her face scrunched up to show this was one of the “hard-hitting” conclusions: “So, Karen, I guess we’ll have to wait until the trial starts to get more details about these explosive allegations by Jeff Toussignant about the parents he’s accused of having murdered. I think we can confidently predict there will be an awful lot of attention paid to this trial. Back to you.”
In the few days since that first Global TV hit aired, there had been a lot more media coverage of the Toussignant story. Mostly by outlets piggy-backing on the original work Global did. Normal people got into the fray as well, on social media and on talk radio. Twitter was especially busy, with various hashtags helping the story trend. One particular hashtag Jason had noticed was #selfishswine, where users let loose on Jeff Toussignant for making the story all about himself and his feelings when he was the one accused of murdering his parents.
Jason had been wracking his brain trying to find some kind of angle that hadn’t already been covered by the others. He hadn’t been able to come up with much of anything. He’d talked to his parents about it, and of course they were horrified by the murder story and did not understand how such a person might turn around and blame a double murder on the victims.
“Now I don’t want to be unfair to him without having heard his side of the story,” his mom said, sipping her wine as though it would infuse her with wisdom, “but I must say I have trouble with this concept. As you know, I had my difficult moments with your grandparents, and perhaps you could say our relationship is still strained to this day, but even at our absolute worst I can’t imagine thinking about murdering them, never mind giving that thought serious consideration. I don’t know what to say, honey, I really don’t. It seems so terribly sad.”
“That’s exactly the word I was going to use,” Jason’s father added, “sad. What a waste of human potential. Even if you grant, for the sake of the argument, that this man’s parents were indeed awful and unloving, now he risks spending the rest of his life in jail for their murder and of course his parents will never get the chance to make it up to him. I’m a great believer in hope, and like we always say as long as there’s life there’s hope. In this story it feels like there’s nothing left.” He scratched his beard for a minute. “This man, does he have a family of his own?”
Jason looked at his notes. “Just a sister. She has kids, but the accused himself is all alone. He’s some kind of artist, a poet and writer, mostly, but one you never heard about. His stuff is pretty obscure; I tried looking up his published material to see if I could get a sense of who the man was, but all I could find were a few old poetry magazines that ran some of his lines three and five years ago. He never published a book or anything, and a search of the major literary magazines in this country and in the United States turned up nothing.” Jason took a sip of wine, too, and this time the wisdom trick worked for he got the best idea he’d had in days. “Maybe for him this trial is the closest thing he’ll ever get to being famous because of his words?”
“Oh, Jason,” his mother objected. “What a horrible thought.”
“I agree with you, Mom, but one thing you learn in my line of work is that the world is full of horrible people.”