Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Case Study: Tracy & Robert Latimer

Tracy Latimer was born November 23, 1980 in Saskatchewan, Canada. As a result of oxygen deprivation during birth, she was born with cerebral palsy. Her cerebral palsy was characterized by severe mental and physical disabilities and seizures. She possessed little or no voluntary control of her muscles, was forced to wear diapers, and could not walk, stand, or talk.

Throughout her life she had to undergo many serious surgeries including one to lengthen tendons and release muscles, and another where she had metal rods inserted in her back for her scoliosis. Further adding to her troubles was a dislocated hip that she was unable to take painkillers for because of potentially serious complications with her anti-seizure medications. In 1997, The Supreme Court of Canada noted that she was in "undisputed constant pain."

On October 24, 1993, Tracy was almost thirteen years only when her father Robert killed her by tubing carbon monoxide poisoning into his truck. Robert claimed his actions were merciful and what he believed to be Tracy’s best interest. Included below is a time line of the relevant events following Tracy’s death.

Nov. 1994
Robert Latimer is convicted of second-degree murder.

July 1995
Latimer appeals the decision, but Saskatchewan Court of Appeal upholds verdict by 2-1 vote.

Oct. 1995
It’s revealed that prosecution unlawfully asked jurors during selection about religion, abortion and mercy killing..

Feb. 1997
Supreme Court orders a re-trail new due to jury interference.

Nov. 1997
Latimer again found guilty of second-degree murder. Jury recommends parole eligibility after one year.

Dec. 1997
Judge issues Latimer a "constitutional exemption", and he’s sentenced to less than two years (one of which is to be spent in the community).

Nov. 1998
Saskatchewan Court of Appeal fails to acknowledge his constitutional exemption and upholds his mandatory sentence of at least 10 years.

Jan. 2001
Supreme Court agrees to hear Latimer appeal but upholds initial sentence of no parole for at least 10 years.

Dec. 2003
Although jailed for the last 9 years for killing his daughter, Latimer acknowledges that he still feels what he did was right.

Dec. 2007
Despite serving 13 years of his minimum 10 years sentence, Latimer is denied day parole.

Feb. 2008
Latimer appeals the decision of the National Parole Board and is released on day parole.

This was a marquee case in Canadian euthanasia history and demonstrates the intolerance of it in the Criminal Code. The debate rages on whether Robert Latimer was given too harsh a sentence, or whether he was deserving of the punishment. How do you feel about this particular case? Let us know!

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