After 10 years in jail for the mercy killing of his severely disabled daughter, Robert Latimer begrudgingly, but finally will receive full parole on December 6th.
Latimer applied for and was denied early parole in 2007 because, in the opinion of the members of the National Parole Board, he didn’t exhibit sufficient regret for his actions. Latimer, answering their questions honestly, said that he still thought he had done the right thing when he killed his daughter.
In 2008 the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed an appeal on Latimer’s behalf on the basis that the NPB had violated its own rules by requiring to admit to wrongdoing in order to qualify for parole and by ignoring the fact that he was a very low risk for re-offending.
In actual fact he was probably a no-risk case.
In February 2008,a review board overturned the NPB’s decision and granted Latimer day parole in Ottawa beginning that March.
The sad thing is, if the jury and the judge who heard the case had been allowed to do their job, Latimer would have been out of prison in a year’s time.
However the case became a cause celebre with various disability rights groups, some church groups and others who argued that unless Latimer was dealt with the full severity of the law others would be encouraged to rush out and kill other disabled people.
Even the Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne argued that the NPB was within its rights to deny Latimer parole because he didn’t express regret, because doing so without that requirement might encourage others to do the same.
All of which is patently nonsense.
Robert Latimer took a life and for that he had to answer to the law. But he shouldn’t have had his case effectively arbitrated by groups that have agendas that have nothing to do with justice or fairness but are meant to advance their advocacy.
Justice is never even handed and I don’t think was ever meant to be. Every case has its own story and its own specific set of facts. But when you look at Latimer’s sentencing and his treatment by the National Parole Board knowing that this man was caught up in his own moral dilemma but also knowing full well that he was absolutely no risk to the community, and then again look at other cases and how the sentencing came down, I think there is reason to wonder.
Cases in point:.
Jodie Lynn Bryant was enjoying a campfire in a Regina backyard on the May long weekend when a stranger in a passing car smiled, lifted a stolen rifle and took the 21-year-old’s life with a single pull of the trigger.
Asked by his friend what he was doing, the 16-year-old murderer replied, “Oh, just having fun.”
On Friday, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a youth facility on top of the six months he’s already served since his arrest, followed by three years in the community under a conditional supervision order.
“That’s a dangerous man. In three years Regina, be scared,” Bryant’s aunt Elaine Severight told the Leader-Post.
A killer, admittedly 16 years old, callously kills a girl in her own backyard in a drive-by shooting, “just having fun”. He gets 3 1/2 years in prison and then they throw him back into the community under ‘supervision’.
And among various mercy killings in Canada, a few examples.
1990 – Unidentified city in Quebec, possibly Quebec City – Unidentified doctor gave potassium chloride injection to dying patient who was suffering intractable pain
Charge: None (president of Quebec College of Physicians defended doctor’s action and Quebec Minister of Justice decided against laying charges)
“Euthanasia: Quebec considering charges for MD’s role in AIDS death”
Ottawa Citizen, June 20 1992, Page A3
In Timmins, Ontario the forty-nine-year-old chief of surgery at St. Mary’s General Hospital, Dr. Alberto de la Rocha, administered an injection of morphine and potassium chloride to his seventy-year-old patient in 1991. Mrs Mary Graham was suffering from terminal cancer of the cheek, mouth and lung. It was clear that during much of her remaining time she would have to endure great agony. As Nicholas Ionides reported in the Globe and Mail of April 5, 1993, her forty-six-year-old son, George, testified at the trial of his mother’s doctor that he and his brothers regarded his mother’s death as being “very peaceful, very dignified, and very humane,” and that it was “a beautiful experience.”
The doctor’s motives were clear — to save his patient the pain, suffering and humiliation of protracted illness. His community recognized this when they rallied to his support, as did many of the hospital staff and de la Rocha’s other patients. Initially, the doctor was charged with second-degree murder, but the charge was later reduced and he pleaded guilty to a much lesser charge, of administering a noxious substance. He received a three-year suspended sentence and was not banned from practising medicine.
1993 – Halifax, Nova Scotia – Cheryl Myers and Michael Power euthanized Myers’ father who was dying badly
Charge: Second-degree murder, reduced to manslaughter
Result: Suspended sentence
It would appear that a (brief) case study would indicate that the only certain thing about mercy killings is that if the victim is old and in pain it is ok to put them down. It seems to me that the organizations looking out for the welfare of the aged should be very concerned.
What I do think is that in the end, between advocacy groups howling for his head on a plate, a prosecutor that seemed strongly motivated to extract the severest sentence possible and his trial being turned into a media event, Robert Latimer never had a chance of finding any compassion from the courts.
There are many who still think that Latimer deserved no compassion.
I think his 10 years spent incarcerated was wrong and a waste of a decent man’s life.