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Latimer to Stay in Prison for Murdering Disabled Daughter, says Canada High Court

by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 18, 2001

This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

WILKIE, SASKATCHEWAN--The Supreme Court of Canada this morning ruled that Robert Latimer, who confessed to killing his 12-year-old daughter Tracy, will have to spend at least ten years of a life sentence in prison. The decision ends seven years of trials and appeals.

Latimer had confessed to gassing Tracy to death in 1993, but said he did so out of love for her, to end the "suffering" caused by her cerebral palsy and mental retardation. He was convicted of murder in his first trial. But the case was thrown out because police had asked some of the jurors questions regarding how they felt about euthanasia, known as "mercy killing".

The jury at his second trial convicted him of murder, too, but they did so without knowing that Canadian law would require him to spend at least ten years in prison. When the jury learned this, they asked the trial judge to go against Canadian law and sentence Latimer to just two years. A higher court later said that trial judge could not give Latimer less than the ten year sentence. Latimer appealed that decision, saying his ten year sentence would be "cruel and unusual punishment". His appeal was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada last June.

In announcing its unanimous ruling, the high court this morning said it could find no reason to grant Latimer the shorter sentence, that he was fully responsible for his daughter's death.

"This is not a crime!" Latimer told reporters from his home after hearing about the decision. He placed the blame for his situation on everyone from disability rights advocates to the police who arrested him, whom he called "jury-riggin perjurors".

"There are some very sick people at work, here," Latimer added.

Disability rights advocates are celebrating the decision, which they said will help to protect people with disabilities like Tracy.

But, some are suggesting advocates remain cautious and keep working hard for the rights of people with disabilities. They point out that Latimer was sent to prison by only by a "technicality", and that the members of the court really wanted to find a way to let him go early.

This battle may have been won, but the war over society's view of Latimer and his daughter remains.

As Robert Latimer told reporters this morning: "It's amazing how understanding the general public is!"

This page from the CBC has several useful links, including video and audio segments and interviews: http://cbc.ca/cgi-bin/templates/view.cgi?/news/2001/01/18/latimer_scoc010118

For those who are interested, the entire text of the Supreme Court's decision is available at this web address: http://www.lexum.umontreal.ca/csc-scc/en/rec/texte/latimer2.en.txt

For more information on the Latimer case, including a biography and photograph of Tracy, go to this "Latimer Watch" website hosted by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD): http://www.pcs.mb.ca/~ccd/lwintro.html

A legal summary of the appeal can be found on the Inclusion Daily Express website at: http://www.InclusionDaily.com/news/latimerappeal.htm

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