I hesitate on many fronts to weigh in on this case, but there is such a diversity of opinion across the country, I’m hoping I can find a common ground.
Briefly for those not aware of this case, Robert Latimer was charged with 1st degree murder of his 12 year old severely handicapped daughter Tracy Latimer. He was eventually convicted of 2nd degree murder after two trials and two appeals. The manditory minimum time to be served before eligibility for parole is ten years. Tracy had cerebral palsy and a severe mental disability and functioned at the level of about a 3-4 month old. There was little doubt of the pain and suffering she was enduring, but for reasons not that clear, she could not be treated with pain medication stronger then Tylenol.
On or about October 12, 1993, Robert Latimer made plans to kill his daughter by placing her in his truck and piping carbon monoxide into the cab. On October 24, 1993 he carried out his plan. He later carried Tracy’s lifeless body into her bedroom and placed her in bed. His wife Laura and other children were at church during this time. When they came home, Laura found Tracy and realized something was wrong. They called the RCMP and Latimer told the RCMP that he had put her to bed about noon and she must have died shortly after that. When confronted with the possibility of an autopsy, Latimer said he wanted her cremated. Eventually both he and wife Laura indicated they wanted her cremated.
After the toxicology reports indicated a presence of carbon monoxide, Robert Latimer finally confessed to killing Tracy and then moving her to the bedroom.
Those are the brief facts. There is much more on the internet, you just have to google “Robert Latimer” and you can get it all. There are numerous opinions and views on the subject, as well as Latimer’s own web site. I urge you to read all you can tolerate, both pro and con.
This whole thing became news again December 5, 2007, when Latimer was refused day parole after serving 7 years of the minimum 10 years before he could be considered for any type of parole, (remember, this is a life sentence, 25 years).
Robert Latimer has always professed that he did the right thing in taking Tracy’s life and has never expressed any remorse or feelings of guilt what so ever. He has repeatedly stated that he did nothing wrong. I think in one sense it is commendable to be so adamant and steadfast in maintaining ones conviction. The part that keeps bothering me though is, when did he firm up these feelings, before he admitted to killing Tracy or after?
You see, if one kills another and then tries to cover it up and make it appear as natural cause or something else, it would indicate to any reasonable person that the accused does know right from wrong and does not want to get caught. Somewhere this fact of Latimer’s case is continually being left out. In reading the Supreme Court ruling on the appeals, the fact of Latimer’s attempt to cover this up is a major part of the continued denial of appeal.
Not with standing all of Robert Latimer’s misguided actions, I do believe that he was doing what he thought was best for Tracy. As a father he could not stand to see her suffer any longer. However there is a fine line between his own feelings and that which he thinks Tracy must have been going through. Unfortunately she could not speak for herself.
Keeping Latimer in prison will not cause him to reconsider his actions or change his view on what occurred. He poses no great threat to society, though there are varying views of this. I think what most fail to consider, is that this is not about the injustice to Robert Latimer or the suffering of his daughter Tracy. It is about the law and the greater implications of how a lessor sentence or exceptional consideration would affect future jurisprudence in the area of life sentences and in the area of other cases of severe disability that may arise.
If Robert Latimer had been charged and convicted of manslaughter, he would have been out of prison long ago and probably long forgotten. However, he could not be charged with manslaughter. His plan and the eventual carrying out of the deed indicated he had every intention of killing Tracy. In most civilized countries that is murder and if it is planned and premeditated, it is 1st degree murder, which Latimer was charged with. The fact that the conviction was reduced to 2nd degree murder gives rise to the view that he was given consideration and it was mitigated somewhat by the fact that he did not appear malicious in his actions. The aggravating factor was his attempt to cover up the whole thing in the beginning. He may have never confessed had an autopsy not reveled the presence of carbon monoxide in Tracy’s system.
Robert Latimer is in many ways a victim of his own folly. He appears to be trying to make a case for euthanasia and justifiable homicide in circumstances such as his. There are many that support that view, others that feel the law should provide differently then they did in this case. There may be some merit for that discussion. I don’t personally share that view, but it is great to live in a country where we can have different viewpoints and discuss them openly.
It would appear to me that Latimer does not have counsel at this time…noting from the many trees he has killed in his correspondence to just about every political and justice figure he can find. He has picked a fight with the Supreme Court of Canada, that I can assure him…he will not win. He fails to understand what the role of the court is.
There is an old proverb someplace, not sure if it’s origin, but the truth in it is, (with a slight twist…) : The man who choses to defend himself, has a fool for a lawyer.