Maahwish of Appeal and the Supreme Court decided

Maahwish Mohammad

Fleming

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CLU 3M1-01?

December 17th, 2017

 

R. v. Latimer: Murder

 

The Facts

 

Details of the Crime

 

Tracy had a
severe form of cerebral palsy that caused her to suffer five to six seizures
daily and cause her great pain (Blair 289). On October 12, 1993, Saskatchewan
farmer Robert Latimer and his wife Laura Latimer were told that further surgery
was needed, and that Tracy’s right hip joint and part of the femur would be
removed. Even if the surgery went well, she was likely going to need surgery on
her left hip and have a feeding tube put into her stomach. The post-surgery
pain would’ve been very intense (Butts). On October 24, 1993, Latimer killed
his severely disabled 12-year-old daughter Tracy (Blair 289). He put Tracy in
the back of his truck and ran a hose from the tailpipe to the back, and turned
on the motor (Butts). Tracy died from carbon monoxide poisoning (Blair 289). At
first, Laura had no knowledge of Robert’s actions. When she returned home from
church with their other three children and found Tracy dead in her bed, she
assumed she died in her sleep. An autopsy had revealed that it was a carbon
monoxide poisoning. Latimer had confessed when the police confronted him with
the evidence and was taken into custody. He insisted that he didn’t commit a
criminal act, and was just trying to do the right thing (Butts). 

 

Charges

 

On November 16, 1994,
Latimer was convicted of second-degree murder. That conviction was appealed
because the prosecutor had interfered with the jury selection process. His
second trial started on October 22, 1997, where he was again convicted of
second-degree murder (Butts). The judge explained to the jury that
second-degree murder results in a mandatory jail sentence of 10 years, but jury
members recommended that he only serve one year before parole eligibility. The
judge sentenced him to one year of imprisonment and one year on probation, to
be spent at his farm (Blair 289). However, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and
the Supreme Court decided to bring back the original sentence. In January 2001,
Latimer was imprisoned in the William Head facility. He had requested for day
parole in 2007 but it was denied, and then granted in 2008. In December 2010,
he was released on full parole (Butts).

 

 

The Issues

 

Legal Question(s)

 

Would
initiating the mandatory minimum sentence for second-degree murder be
considered a cruel and unusual punishment, opposing to s. 12 of the Charter that
states, “everyone has the right not to be subjected
to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment”? (Blair 289)

 

Was the defence of necessity available to the accused? (R v Latimer)

Defences Available

The defences that could
have logically been used by the accused are necessity and mistake of law. Necessity
could be used because the accused felt that he had no reasonable alternative to
committing the crime. The accused must show that this act was done to avoid a
greater harm, the suffering of his daughter. Mistake of law could have been
used as a defence because the accused didn’t feel that his actions would be
considered as a criminal act. He just felt that he was doing the right thing
and ending his daughter’s suffering by ending her life, also known as
euthanasia. The reason mistake of law would not have been applicable is because
an accused person may not claim his or her own mistake of law as a defence for
committing a criminal act. It is simply ignorance of the law. Latimer actually
put the defence of necessity forward in court, because it seemed to make the
most sense.

Sentencing Options

The sentencing option that is
available for second-degree murder according to the Criminal Code is a ten-year
minimum term of imprisonment (Blair 288). S. 745 (c) of the Criminal Code
states that “in respect of a person who has been convicted of second-degree
murder, that the person be sentenced to imprisonment for life without
eligibility for parole until the person has served at least ten years of the
sentence.” The reason this would be an option is because second-degree murder is
a very serious crime that affects the life of the victim very much and also the
lives of the people around the victim, such as their friends and family. A
harsh sentence should be carried out for second-degree murder because someone’s
life can never be brought back.

 

 

The Decision

The judge
sentenced Latimer to one year of imprisonment and one year on probation, to be
spent at his farm (Blair 289). However, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and
the Supreme Court brought back the original sentence of 10 years (Butts). According
to the textbook, the trial judge wasn’t right when deciding that in this
specific case, the mandatory minimum sentence for second-degree murder would be
cruel and unusual punishment (Blair 289). The Court decided that the minimum
mandatory sentence was not cruel in this specific case, and they also pointed
out that it is up to the Parliament to decide on the use of minimum sentences,
not the courts (Blair 289). 

 

Opinion

 

In my opinion, I
believe that the Supreme Court’s decision of having the original sentence of 10
years was right. Even though Latimer was just trying to end his daughter’s
suffering and do the right thing, he shouldn’t have ended her life. There could
have been many other options to lessen her pain or to reduce the number of
seizures she suffered. Her parents were even told that the surgery to repair
her dislocated hip would cause pain, but further surgery would relieve this
pain (Blair 289). Latimer still murdered someone, and murdering someone is
always an indictable offence. It doesn’t matter if the victim is healthy or
disabled. A disabled person has the same right to life as any other human
being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works
Cited

 

 

Blair, Annice et al. Law in Action: Understanding Canadian
Law. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 2003. Retrieved November 2 2017.

 

Butts, Edward. “Robert Latimer Case.” The Canadian
Encyclopedia, 9 Sept. 2016, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/robert-latimer-case/.
Retrieved November 8 2017. 

 

“R v Latimer.” CanLII Connects, 1 Dec. 2014, canliiconnects.org/en/summaries/34762.
Retrieved November 16 2017.

 

 “R v Latimer.”
Casebrief.me, casebrief.me/casebriefs/r-v-latimer/. Retrieved November 16
2017.