Robert Latimer


Robert Latimer

Infobox Person


image_size = 150px
name = Robert Latimer
caption =
birth_date = Birth date and age|1953|3|13|mf=y
birth_place =
death_date =
death_place =
occupation = Farmer
spouse = Laura Latimer
parents =
children = Tracy Latimer (deceased), 3 others

Robert William "Bob" Latimer (born March 13 1953), a Canadian canola and wheat farmer, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his daughter Tracy (November 23 1980October 24 1993). This case sparked a national controversy on the definition and ethics of euthanasia as well as the rights of people with disabilities, and two Supreme Court decisions, "R. v. Latimer" (1997), on section 10 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and later "R. v. Latimer" (2001), on cruel and unusual punishments under section 12 of the Charter. Latimer was released on parole in March 2008.

Farm and family

Before his imprisonment, Bob Latimer lived near Wilkie, Saskatchewan, on a convert|1280|acre|ha wheat and canola farmcite web
last = Driedger
first = Sharon Doyle
authorlink =
coauthors = Leslie Perreaux
title = Latimer Convicted, Again (Nov97 Updates)
work =
publisher = "Maclean's"
date = November 17 1997
url = http://www.canadianencyclopedia.ca/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=M1ARTM0011437
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] with his wife, Laura, and their four children.

Tracy Latimer

Tracy Latimer was born November 23 1980. An interruption in Tracy's supply of oxygen during the birth caused cerebral palsy, [cite news
last = Butler
first = Don
title =Latimer wants new jury trial
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = Canwest News Service
date =2008-03-18
url =http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/story.html?id=bbb63cc4-1486-4d42-8c8d-7cb3812440ad&k=6162
accessdate =2008-03-27
] leading to severe mental and physical disabilities including seizures that were controlled with seizure medication.cite news
last =
first =
coauthors =
title = An honor to have known her
publisher = "Maclean's"
date = November 28 1994
] [Citation
last = Jenish
first = D'Arcy
author-link =
last2 = Tom Fennell, Sharon Doyle Driedger, Luke Fisher and Art Robinson
first2 =
author2-link =
title = What would you do?
newspaper = Maclean's
pages =
year =
date = November 28 1994
url =
] She had little or no voluntary control of her muscles, wore diapers, and could not walk or talk. Her doctors described the care given by her family as excellent.

The Supreme Court judgment of 1997 noted, "It is undisputed that Tracy was in constant pain."cite web
title = R. v. Latimer, [1997] 1 S.C.R. 217
work =
publisher = Supreme Court of Canada
date = February 6 1997
url = http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1997/1997rcs1-217/1997rcs1-217.html
accessdate = 2007-08-27
] In her medical testimony Dr. Dzus, Tracy's orthopaedic surgeon, noted "the biggest thing I remember from that visit is how painful Tracy was. Her mother was holding her right leg in a fixed, flexed position with her knee in the air and any time you tried to move that leg Tracy expressed pain and cried out".cite news
last = Perreaux
first = Leslie
coauthors =
title = Tracy faced lifetime of surgery, doctor says
publisher = "Saskatoon Star-Phoenix"
date = October 31 1997
] She also noted that despite having a hip that had been dislocated for many months Tracy could not take painkillers because she was on anti-seizure medication which, in combination with painkillers, could lead to renewed seizures, stomach bleeding, constipation, aspiration and aspiration pneumonia.Examination-in-chief of Dr Anne K. Dzus, Latimer v. Her Majesty the Queen, Appellant's Record Book, File # 26980] Robert Latimer reported that the family was not aware of any medication other than Tylenol that could be safely administered to Tracy.cite news
last = Canadian Press
title =Robert Latimer counting down the days to parole
work =
pages =
language =
publisher = CTV.ca
date =September 21 2006
url =http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060921/Robert_Latimer_060921/20060921?hub=Canada&s_name
accessdate =2007-01-29
] Considering it too intrusive, the Latimers did not wish a feeding tube to be inserted, though according to the 2001 Supreme Court judgment it might have allowed more effective pain medication to be administered, as well as improve her nutrition and health.cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = R. v. Latimer, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 3, 2001 SCC 1, I 6
work =
publisher = Supreme Court of Canada
date = January 18 2001
url = http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2001/2001scc1/2001scc1.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
]
During her life, Tracy underwent several surgeries, including surgery to lengthen tendons and release muscles, and surgery to correct scoliosis in which rods were inserted into her back.

Despite her medical condition, Tracy attended school regularly in Wilkie. [cite news|last =Walkon| first =Thomas| title ='I don't think I did any wrong' 'Most people don't understand this was unique. There are some things that are unique,' Robert Latimer says on eve of Supreme Court ruling ; Latimer awaits today's verdict on daughter's 1993 death| publisher = "Toronto Sun" | date = 2001-01-18] People who worked with Tracy in group homes and schools described her smile, love of music and reaction to horses at the circus. According to the Crown prosecutors' brief presented at the second trial, "She also responded to visits by her family, smiling and looking happy to see them. There is no dispute that through her life, Tracy at times suffered considerable pain. As well, the quality of her life was limited by her severe disability. But the pain she suffered was not unremitting, and her life had value and quality."cite web
last = O'Malley
first = Martin
authorlink =
coauthors = Owen Wood
title = 'Cruel & unusual': The law and Latimer
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = December 17 2003
url = http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/latimer/
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] In October 1993, Dr. Dzus recommended further surgery on November 19, 1993 in the hope that it would lessen the constant pain in Tracy's dislocated hip. Depending on the state of her hip joint, the procedure might have been a hip reconstruction or it might have involved removing the upper part of her thigh bone, leavingthe leg connected to her body only by muscles and nerves. The anticipated recovery period for this surgery was one year. The Latimers were told that this procedure would cause pain, and the doctors involved suggested that further surgery would be required in the future to relieve the pain emanating from various joints in Tracy's body." Dr. Dzus reported that "the post operative pain can be incredible", and described the short-term solution useful only while was still in hospital, an epidural that would anesthetize the lower part of the body and help alleviate pain.

Tracy's death

On October 24 1993, Laura Latimer found Tracy dead. She had died under the care of her father while the rest of the family was at church. At first Robert Latimer maintained that Tracy had died in her sleep; however, when confronted by police with autopsy evidence that high levels of carbon monoxide were found in Tracy's blood, Latimer confessed that he had killed her by placing her in his truck and connecting a hose from the truck's exhaust pipe to the cab. He said he had also considered other methods of killing Tracy, including Valium overdose and "shooting her in the head".

Robert Latimer said his actions were motivated by love for Tracy and a desire to end her pain.cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Latimer appeals for leniency
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = June 15 2000
url = http://cbc.ca/cgi-bin/templates/view.cgi?category=Canada&story=/news/2000/06/14/latimer_wed000614
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] He described the medical treatments Tracy had undergone and was scheduled to undergo as "mutilation and torture". "With the combination of a feeding tube, rods in her back, the leg cut and flopping around and bedsores, how can people say she was a happy little girl?" Latimer asked.cite web
last = Depalma
first = Anthony
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Father's killing of Canadian girl: Mercy or murder?
work =
publisher = "The New York Times"
date = December 1 1997
url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A0CE7D81E3AF932A35751C1A961958260&sec=health&spon=&pagewanted=print
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
]

Murder trials and appeals

On November 16, 1994, a jury convicted Latimer of second degree murder. However, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a retrial, because of jury interference as the prosecutor had questioned potential jurors about religion, abortion, and mercy killing during jury selection. (See R. v. Latimer (1997) for more information on this decision.) On November 5, 1997, the jury at the second trial again found Latimer guilty of second degree murder.cite web
last = O'Malley
first = Martin
authorlink =
coauthors = Owen Wood
title = 'Cruel & unusual': The law and Latimer
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = December 17 2003
url = http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/latimer/
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] Although the minimum sentence for second-degree murder is life with no chance of parole until after 10 years, the jury recommended that Latimer be eligible for parole after one year.cite web
last = Driedger
first = Sharon Doyle
authorlink =
coauthors = Leslie Perreaux
title = Latimer Convicted, Again (Nov97 Updates)
work =
publisher = "Maclean's"
date = November 17 1997
url = http://www.canadianencyclopedia.ca/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=M1ARTM0011437
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] Because he believed Latimer was motivated by compassion, Judge Ted Noble argued that a "constitutional exemption" could apply, and sentenced him to two years, one in jail and one under house arrest.cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Supreme Court will hear Latimer's appeal
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = May 7 1999
url = http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/1999/05/06/latimer990506.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
]

The Crown appealed the decision because Latimer had not received the minimum sentence for his crime. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that Latimer would have to serve a life sentence. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Appeal Court gives Latimer life sentence
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = November 23 1998
url = http://cbc.ca/cgi-bin/templates/view.cgi?/news/1998/11/23/appeal981123
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] Latimer appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, asserting that he had not been allowed to argue that he had no choice but to kill Tracy, and that a life sentence was cruel and unusual punishment.cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Supreme Court will hear Latimer's appeal
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = May 7 1999
url = http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/1999/05/06/latimer990506.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] The Supreme Court unanimously upheld Latimer's conviction and life sentence holding that Latimer had other options available to him and that the minimum 10-year sentence was not excessive. (for details, see R. v. Latimer (2001)).

Prison

Robert Latimer began serving his sentence on January 18, 2001 and was incarcerated at William Head Institution, a minimum-security facility located 30 kilometers west of Victoria, BC, on Vancouver Island. While in prison, he completed the first year of carpentry and electrician apprenticeships. He continued to run the farm with the help of a manager.

Parole

On December 5 2007 Robert Latimer requested day parole from the National Parole Board in Victoria, BC. He told the parole board that he believed killing his daughter was the right thing to do. The board denied his request, saying that Latimer had not developed sufficient insight into his actions, despite psychological and parole reports that said he was a low risk to reoffend unless he was put into the same situation again. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Parole board denies Latimer's bid for partial freedom
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = December 5 2007
url = http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/12/05/latimer-parole-mtg.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-12-05
] [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20071205.wlatimerdecision1205/BNStory/National/home globeandmail.com: Latimer denied early prison release, by Justine Hunter] ] In January 2008, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed the appeal on Latimer's behalf, arguing that in denying parole the board had violated its own rules by requiring admission of wrongdoing and by ignoring the low risk for reoffending. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Latimer appeals denial of early parole
work =
publisher = CBC News
date = January 23 2008
url = http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/01/23/latimer-appeal.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-01-23
] [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Latimer appeals parole board decision
work =
publisher = "Toronto Star"
date = January 23 2008
url = http://www.thestar.com/News/article/296779
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-01-23
] In February 2008, a review board overturned the earlier parole board decision, and granted Latimer day parole stating that there was low risk that Latimer would re-offend. [cite web
last = Mulgrew
first =Ian
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Robert Latimer granted day parole
work =
publisher = Canwest News Service
date = February 27 2008
url = http://www.nationalpost.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=338933
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-02-27
] Latimer was released from William Head Prison and began his day parole in Ottawa in March. On his release he expressed his plan to press for a new trial and for identification of the pain medication that the 2001 Supreme Court ruling suggested he could have used instead of killing his daughter. [cite web
title = Latimer in Saskatchewan, visiting ailing mother
work =
publisher = Canwest News Service
date = March 15 2008
url = http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=408be2e0-b8a4-4dd3-980e-1b6ea30556d1&k=9116
accessdate = 2008-03-19
] [cite web
last = El Akkad
first =Omar
title = Latimer faces uphill battle
work =
publisher = "The Globe and Mail"
date = March 18 2008
url = http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20080318.LATIMER18/TPStory/National
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-03-19
]

Public debate

upport for Latimer

A 1999 poll found that 73% of Canadians believed that Latimer acted out of compassion and should receive a more lenient sentence. The same poll found that 41% believe that mercy killing should not be illegal. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Three quarters (73%) of Canadians believe Robert Latimer ended his daughter's life out of compassion
work =
publisher = Ipsos News Center
date = January 10 1999
url = http://www.ipsos-na.com/news/pressrelease.cfm?id=760
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] Ethicist Arthur Schafer argued that Robert Latimer was "the only person in Canadian history to spend even a single day in prison for a mercy killing" and that compassion and common sense dictated a reduced sentence and the granting of parole. [ cite web
last = Schafer
first = Arthur
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Justice denied: Latimer case exposes flaws in legal system
work =
publisher = "Winnipeg Free Press"
date = 2007-12-07
url =http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/subscriber/westview/story/4089793p-4688105c.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-01-22
] [cite web
last = Schafer
first = Arthur
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Top judges got it wrong in this case
work =
publisher = RobertLatimer.net
month = January | year = 2001
url = http://www.robertlatimer.net/professors_and_professionals/arthur_shafer/top_judges_got_it_wrong.htm

format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-28
] In their book, "The Elements of Moral Philosophy", James Rachels and Stuart Rachels present Robert Latimer's actions sympathetically. [Rachels, James, and Rachels, Stuart, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 5th edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007), pp. 8-11.]

upport for Latimer's conviction and sentence

Numerous disability rights groups obtained intervenor status in the Latimer's appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing that killing a severely disabled child like Tracy is no different than killing a non-disabled child and should carry the same penalty. To do otherwise, they argued, would devalue the lives of disabled people and increase the risk of more such killings by their caregivers. [cite web
last = MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Factum of the intervenors, C. A. No. 7413/7416
work =
publisher = Council of Canadians with Disabilities
month = October | year = 1998
url = http://www.ccdonline.ca/law-reform/Intervention/Latimer%20factum%201997.html
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-27
] Religious groups representing the Roman Catholic church and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada also appeared as intervenors in Latimer's Supreme Court appeal.

Latimer's 2007 application for day-parole was rejected primarily because he still denied any wrongdoing. "Maclean's" columnist Andrew Coyne argued that the National Parole Board was right to expect remorse on Latimer's part, because to do otherwise might inspire others to similar actions. [cite web
last = Coyne
first = Andrew
authorlink =Andrew Coyne
coauthors =
title = Justice means having to say you're sorry: Releasing Latimer now in the face of his impenitence would put public safety at risk
work =
publisher = "Maclean's"
date = December 19 2007
url = http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20071219_68881_68881
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2008-01-22
]

References

Links

* [http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/latimer/ In depth: Robert Latimer]
* [http://www.RobertLatimer.net RobertLatimer.net]
* [http://www.ccdonline.ca/publications/latimer-watch/index.htm Latimer Watch] : newsletter published by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities


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