Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Crime Passionnel

Like a Teenager

The trial continued the next day with miscellaneous testimony designed to impugn the characterization of Mrs. Chevallier as a hapless victim.

Relatives of Pierre said the wife was a virtual recluse who refused to attend Chevallier family functions and was suspicious of anyone who vied for her husband's time and attention.

A police investigator testified that the accused had given a series of differing accounts of the fatal events in the bedroom.

Witness testifies in French court
Witness testifies in French court

But Yvonne regained sympathy with the final witnesses.

First, a confidante of Mrs. Chevallier testified that she ran to her in tears on the day that Pierre had told her, You disgust me!

The same woman said Yvonne vowed to kill herself after learning of the affair. The wife explained that she had no chance against Jeanne Perreau, who was younger, wealthier, prettier and better educated.

Finally, a psychiatrist revealed that the Chevalliers had had a sexless marriage for years, causing "physical depreciation" and desperation in the spurned wife. He added that Yvonne suffered from social, physical and intellectual inferiority complexes.

The doctor said Yvonne had retained the mentality of a teenager in love with a student.

By trial's end, observers felt the judge and prosecutor were squarely on Yvonne Chevallier's side.

The prosecutor read into evidence a love letter from Pierre to Jeanne Perreau that said he felt only pity, not love or compassion, for his wife. The prosecutor, sounding like a defense attorney, called the letter cynical. 

Judge Jadin took a paternalistic tone with Yvonne, which no doubt influenced the jury. French judicial tradition deemed that crime suspects are referred to as the accused. But Jadin addressed the woman with the more polite and respectful Madam.

Before turning the case over to the jury, he mildly scolded Mrs. Chevallier for failing to overcome the animal passion she felt for the husband.

You should have conquered it and have realized that you have no right to take the life of another person, Jadin said. This passion overwhelmed your whole way of lifewithout any attempt on your part to control it. I understand your cavalier action, but do not condone it.

While Jadin lectured, Mrs. Chevallier again began bawling, muttering over and over, Im sorry. Im sorry. Im sorry...

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