Critical Thinking

Details had died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Soon

Details of the Crime On October 24th, 1993, Robert Latimer killed his twelve-year-old daughter Tracy Latimer while his wife and his three other children were at church. Laura was reportedly unaware of Robert’s action. When Laura discovered Tracy in her bed, no longer breathing, she thought that the child had died in her sleep. During the days leading up to Robert Latimer’s arrest it was revealed through an autopsy that Tracy had died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Soon after, Robert was confronted with the evidence by police. After confessing that he was responsible for Tracy’s death he was taken into custody.(Butts) Tracy Latimer was suffering from a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills known as Cerebral Palsy “caused by neurological damage at birth” (Hirsch).  “Her form of the condition was one of the most severe because it affected her entire body. She was bedridden, with no control of her limbs. Her mental capacity was that of a five-month-old baby. Tracy couldn’t speak, though she responded to affection and smiled. She had to be spoon-fed. She was underweight and dehydrated due to frequent vomiting, and so periodically had to be given fluids and nutrients intravenously.” (Butts) Mr. and Mrs. Latimer were informed that Tracy would require surgery to remove her right hip bone and part of the femur. They were also told that the postoperative pain would be intense. Robert believed that as Tracy’s father, he had an obligation to protect her from what he perceived to be unnecessary torture.(Butts) ‘Latimer put Tracy in the cab of his pickup, connected a hose to the exhaust pipe, and inserted the other end into the cab.'(Blair) ‘Latimer told police he did it. He said he loved his daughter and could not bear to watch her suffer.’ (News)Charges On November 4, 1993, police reported to the Latimer farm in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, to question Robert Latimer. They soon arrested him and charged him with first-degree murder after he confessed to killing his daughter. After spending eight days in jail, Robert Latimer was released from custody under a few conditions: he does not leave the province without permission, he must report to the Wilkie RCMP every Friday and that he refrain from drinking alcohol. (CCD)Latimer’s trial took place in November 1994. ‘He was tried on a charge of first-degree murder, and on November 16 a jury convicted him of second-degree murder.'(Butts) ‘That conviction was successfully appealed on the grounds that the prosecutor had interfered with the jury selection process. At his second trial, Latimer was again convicted of second-degree murder’ (Blair 289)The IssuesLegal Question(s)-  ‘In this particular case, would imposing the mandatory minimum sentence for second-degree murder constitute cruel and unusual punishment, contrary to s. 12 of the Charter?’ (Blair 289)-  Would the accused be able to use necessity as a defense?Defences AvailableNecessity would be the only defense possible for the accused because Mr. Latimer does not suffer from any kind of mental disorder and he could not use intoxication, self-defense, or mistake of law as a defense. He did not have an alibi and he was not pressured or threatened by anyone to commit the crime. Necessity was used as Latimer’s defence but the trial judge stated that it could not be used because Robert Latimer himself was not in any danger at the time of Tracy’s death, Tracy’s pain or upcoming surgery was not considered an emergency or put her in imminent peril and killing Tracy was not a “proportionate response” to her condition.  Sentencing Options       For second-degree murder, the mandatory minimum sentence is life imprisonment with the eligibility of parole after 10 years of serving but sentences can be as long as life in prison without parole for 25 years. The date of parole eligibility is up to the judge. (News)The Decision  ‘The judge sentenced Latimer to one year of imprisonment and one year on probation, to be spent confined to his farm. When the Crown appealed, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturned the one-year sentence and reinstated the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison without eligibility for parole. Latimer appealed his sentence to the Supreme Court of Canada’ ‘The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed Latimer’s appeal. The trial judge was not correct in finding that (in this specific case) the mandatory minimum sentence prescribed by the Canadian Code would be cruel and unusual punishment in violation of s. 12. The Court found that the minimum mandatory sentence was not disproportionate in this case. In the absence of any violation of s. 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there was no basis for granting a constitutional exemption. The Court also pointed out that it is up to Parliament to decide on the use of minimum sentences, not the courts.’ (Blair)Opinion When I first read about this case I agreed with the original sentence of one year in prison and one year on probation because I thought it was too harsh for someone who was doing it out of mercy for his daughter, but after doing the research for this case, and reading a number articles, my personal opinion has changed. I agree with the Supreme Court of Canada dismissing the case and giving the mandatory minimum sentences. Like mentioned in the textbook ‘…it sends a message that people with disabilities have the same right to life as other Canadians.’ (Blair) Canadian citizens saw Robert Latimer as the victim rather than Tracy even though he had other options to ease his daughter’s pain. It was unfair for Tracy, who enjoyed some quality of life, do be killed by her own father because she was disabled.

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