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
"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:
For those who are interested, the entire text of the Supreme Court's
decision is available at this web address:
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):
A legal summary of the appeal can be found on the Inclusion Daily Express
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