Canada’s Robert Latimer Appeals Denial of Early Parole in Euthanasia Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 24, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canada’s Robert Latimer Appeals Denial of Early Parole in Euthanasia Death Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 24,

Ottawa, Canada ( — Robert Latimer, the man who killed his disabled 13-year-old daughter in a so-called mercy killing was denied day parole in December because he showed no remorse to a parole panel for killing her. Now, Latimer’s lawyers are appealing the decision saying the board violated the rules for parole.

Latimer was a Saskatchewan resident who sparked a national debate on assisted suicide and euthanasia after killing Tracy Latimer — a murder that earned him a life sentence in prison.

As his wife and other children attended church, Latimer put Tracy into the cab of his pickup and allowed exhaust fumes to enter.

A jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in 1994 and the Canada Supreme Court eventually nullified the conviction. A second guilty verdict was later upheld.

Latimer has served seven years of that sentence and he is appealing the National Parole Board’s decision to deny him an early release.

According to the CBC, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has filed an appeal on his behalf and claiming the board violated its own rules.

John Dixon, a spokesman for the human rights group, told the CBC that "The panel that denied his parole was plainly more interested in extracting a tearful apology from Latimer than it was in performing its proper function."

"This is a nice man. This is a crime of conscience," Dixon claimed. "He’s not a violent person, he’s not an evil person. There’s no need to rehabilitate him."

The group says the board was only supposed to consider whether Latimer would be a danger to the public when considering the appeal — not whether he showed remorse for his crime of killing his daughter.

The group says that it will take its case to federal court if the board denies the appeal.

The three member parole panel determined that Latimer has not shown enough contrition over his actions to be released from prison. They did not come away from the meeting with the belief he would not commit another act of mercy killing.

"We were left with a feeling that you have not developed the kind of sufficient insight and understanding of your actions," Kelly-Ann Speck, who chaired the three-member panel, told Latimer.

A CTV report indicated Latimer replied with a vague "I don’t think so," when asked if he would kill another family member in a similar condition as his daughter, who could not walk or talk and was severely mentally disabled.

The board recommended to Latimer that he receive counseling and reapply for parole in two years.

According to the newspaper, Latimer continued to insist that taking his daughter’s life was the right thing to do because she faced more surgeries for her disability and a dislocated hip and would have had to endure it with minimal pain medication.

He told the board the decision to kill Tracy was not made on the spur of the movement and said he and his wife had discussed calling Jack Kevorkian, the American assisted suicide crusader, to assist them.

Laurie Beachell, of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, told CTV that Canadians should remember that Tracy was the one killed in the incident and that Latimer could have acted differently.

"The most troubling aspect was somehow Robert Latimer seemed to be portrayed as the victim in this case and we were concerned that the real victim, Tracy, was being forgotten in this whole story," he said.

Beachell added: "If a father had murdered a non-disabled child there would have been a public outcry but because the child had a significant disability the public seemed to think that Robert Latimer was justified in what he did — we would say that’s not the case."