April 20, 2024

Canadian man who killed disabled daughter seeks pardon

65-year-old Robert Latimer wants his life-sentence to be revoked.

A Canadian man who was convicted of second-degree murder after killing his disabled daughter has asked Canadian Prime-Minister Justin Trudeau for a pardon or a retrial.

Sixty-five-year-old Robert Latimer received a life-sentence (including ten years without parole) after killing his daughter Tracy Latimer in 1993; Tracy suffered from severe cerebral palsy, and was allegedly in “chronic pain”. In October 1993, Latimer propped the girl’s head up against the front seat of his truck and connected a hose from the truck’s exhaust pipe to the cab.

Latimer told the courts that he was doing the right thing in ending the life of his daughter, and that everything that happened was something “ordinary humans would do”. Yet despite several appeals, Latimer’s life-sentence was upheld.  

Now, Latimer — who has been on full parole for eight years — is seeking a pardon or a retrial. Latimer says that he is under constant risk of having his parole revoked, and continues to argue that he is innocent. His lawyer Jason Gratl says he is the victim of a miscarriage of justice: “a pardon would offer a glimpse of mercy, compassion and justice that the legal system and the medical system did not afford the Latimers,” Mr. Gratl wrote in a submission to the prime-minister and federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The substance of Latimer’s new application centres on the pain management options that were available Tracy at the time of her death. In Latimer’s initial appeals, courts heard that the girl was in severe pain after several surgeries and that the Latimers believed the only medication they could give her was regular Tylenol. Doctors testified that putting Tracy on powerful drugs required to control her pain could be dangerous or even fatal.

Yet Latimer’s wife, Laura, disagreed; she testified to the courts that Tracy enjoyed life and was living a normal existence, going to school and spending time with family and relatives.

Some commentators have written in support of Latimer’s appeal for pardon. Writing in the Globe and Mail, ethicist Arthur Schafer of the Centre for Applied and Professional Ethics at the University of Manitoba said that Mr Latimer deserves to be treated differently from those who kill out of malice:

Prejudice against those with disabilities is still widespread, and poor judgment is common. But that shouldn’t mean that we treat loving parents who kill from mercy as harshly as we treat people who murder from greed, jealousy, hatred and malice.

Yet disability rights activists and religious groups are indignant at the thought of a pardon. Writing in the Calgary Herald, Baptist pastor Shafer Parker warned that a pardon may have dangerous implications for the way the public interprets assisted suicide legislation in Canada.

Currently, the legislation does not apply to minors. Nor does it justify euthanizing Canadians simply because they are in some measure disabled. Nevertheless, if Latimer succeeds in getting federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to pardon him based on this argument, he will have endangered the lives of many.

Canadian man who killed disabled daughter seeks pardon
Xavier Symons
Creative commons
assisted suicide
disability rights