The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled it will not hear an appeal of a case that received international attention in September, which saw a woman who strangled and killed her newborn baby released and facing no jail time.
Katrina Effert of Wetaskiwin, Alberta gave birth secretly in the downstairs level of her parents’ home and then killed her baby son by throwing his body over the fence of their yard. Effert, 19 at the time of the infanticide, told the court she worried about what her parents would think of having to listen to the cries of a newborn baby in the house. Effert’s parents were not aware of the pregnancy and she initially told police she had not had sexual intercourse.
Effert received a three-year suspended sentence from Justice Joanne Veit of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench and, because of the ruling, she was able to go free on probation and face no time in prison for killing her child. Judge Veit issued the verdict in part because she heard testimony from witnesses that Effert faced sever persecution in prison, where fellow inmates called her “baby killer.”
Prosecutors for the state appealed the decision, but the nation’s high court dismissed the appeal of the decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal to overturn the initial conviction of second degree murder. The decision, released on October 13, did not contain any information given as to the reason for the dismissal, according to a QMI Agency news report.
The part of the ruling Judge Veit issued that received significant opposition related to Veit’s decision that Canada’s acceptance of legalized abortion entitled Effert to kill her child. Judge Veit ruled, according to multiple media reports, that because Canada allows abortions it reflects how “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support.”
“Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother,” said Veit, who said that, while what Effert did was “very grave,” there were no aggravating factors. Prosecutors said the aggravating factors included how Effert initially lied to police about whether she was a virgin and how she initially tried to blame the father of the child for her actions.
“I am of the view that those actions, along with the action of throwing her baby’s body over her back fence, are painful evidence of Ms. Effert’s irrational behavior as a result of her disturbed mind,”the judge said, according to the Sun News Network. “In summary, this is a classic infanticide case – the killing of a newborn or a justborn after a hidden pregnancy by a mother who was alone and unsupported.”
Ultimately, the judge rejected prosecutors’ call for a four-year prison term, saying the suspended sentence is “just” in the case.
Effert, who is now 25, saw her sentence put on hold thanks to a technicality over the 90-day jail term she served and she faces an additional charge of unlawfully disposing of a body. Effert must take counseling, perform 100 hours of community service, and must inform the court if she is pregnant again.
Effert was previously given life in prison in 2009 after a jury convicted her of second-degree murder but an appeal found the verdict was “unreasonable.” Effert was also convicted of murder by a Wetaskiwin jury in 2006 but a new trial was ordered in that case because of errors.