some thoughts on the robert latimer affair

today, the appeal division of the national parole board overturned a board panel’s decision to deny robert latimer day parole. latimer, who has served seven years of a life sentence for killing his severely disabled daughter, will soon be released to a half-way house.

here are a few blog reactions to this.

what are your thoughts?

at the university of alberta

in essence, the board had denied parole because latimer remains convinced that he did the right thing and thus “lacked insight” into his crime. the appeal division rightly found that the board’s decision was “unreasonable and unsupported” and that there was no evidence that latimer represented an “undue risk to society,” which is the only basis for denying parole.

whatever one thinks of the legitimacy of latimer’s conviction and sentence, he should not have been denied release solely because he believed his actions were moral and justified. the state has no right to compel us to think “correctly,” only to take reasonable measures to ensure that our beliefs do not manifest themselves as harmful behaviour.

john murney from the saskatchewan liberty train

so, latimer is finally going to be released from prison after serving 7 years. i know the robert latimer controversy is very emotional and i expect to get a lot of different opinions on this matter. personally, i wouldn’t have done what latimer did, but i haven’t walked in his shoes either. latimer should not have served any prison time for what he did. if anything, i feel tremendous pity for him and his family.

and some comments on that blog

important things to consider: why did he attempt to hide his “crime?” what were the rights of his daughter? i’ve worked with people who suffered from similar disabilities, like the one afflicting latimer’s daughter, so i cannot comprehend euthanasia as the only option.

as well as

the cerebral palsy had strangled her muscles … she had a dislocated hip, believed to have been caused by the two steel rods in her back. her left chest was twisting in towards her spine. her lungs were constricted. she regularly suffered from bronchitis. her stomach was constricted. at times, she could barely swallow. her rigid back left her with pressure sores at the base of her spine.

it hurt to move, even a bath was painful.

and because swallowing was hard, she often had vomiting episodes that went on for months at a time. and another long surgery to come, with only liquid tylenol as a pain treatment latimer lied about it at first because he was trying to buy time for his family to have a proper funeral.

i remember when mrs. latimer was on the stand she said, “whatever hell they put him through will not begin to match the hell that our little girl went through.” that was her mother.

brigitte pellerin at pro woman pro life writes

so robert latimer is to be released from jail. that makes me angry. i understand that he’s no danger to society, and that he’s unlikely to re-offend. but that’s not the point, and never was. it is illegal – and wrong – to take the life of disabled people no matter what the reason.

finally, at alas, a blog, a blog written by a person with a disability

while there’s always been a frightening and enraging degree of support for latimer’s actions (which, interestingly, played out while susan smith was simultaneously being castigated for the murder of her non-disabled children in the u.s.), much of the fervor has been about the mandatory sentencing that required him to serve at least ten years in prison. the canadian supreme court overturned a lighter sentence that failed to follow sentencing guidelines. he’s currently spent seven years in jail.

in an appeal to his conviction, latimer contended that he “had the legal right to decide to commit suicide for his daughter by virtue of her complete lack of physical and intellectual abilities.”

grant mitchell, a lawyer representing disability groups in relation to the case, said yesterday:

“i think it’s really sad that he’s still maintaining that he committed no crime … that killing a member of his family was a private matter that the public had no business getting involved in. and i think it’s particularly concerning that when he was asked by the parole board whether he would do the same thing if another member of his family were in distress, he said he wasn’t sure what he would do.”

i agree with mitchell. more importantly, i agree with the guilty verdict that holds latimer accountable for murdering his daughter.

6 thoughts on “some thoughts on the robert latimer affair

  1. Evan

    It’s good to see that people are willing to state their values in this debate. This makes clear what it would take to arrive at some kind of community consensus.

    Thus some see gaol as punishment, others as safe-guarding others. It is here that the debate needs to occur if some kind of shared view is to emerge.

    There are broader questions too. If society imposes sanctions what support does it provide? People and families are often left with extraordinary burdens in caring for loved ones with disabilities.

    What mental competence amounts to and how it is decided is also a very moot issue. In an age where we could sustain life for just about any degree of vitality there are difficult questions to discuss. But I don’t think it is lawyers who should decide. There must be better ways than that.

    Evan’s last blog post..A Fabulous Blog About Psychotherapy: Psychology, Philosophy and Real Life

  2. Nancy

    I didn’t pay a lot of attention when this was in the news originally, but I guess older and wiser I’m paying more attention now. We are confronted with our own limitations in this, aren’t we – grasping the horror of the situation – the anguish and misery of the individuals, yet the undercurrents of pogrom if as a society we said what he did was ok. What is wisdom in this circumstance? Personally, I’m at a complete loss.

    Nancy’s last blog post..Regarding Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

  3. Andrea Ingraham

    Robert Latimer should be in therapy rather than rewarded his freedom for killing his child? Would the authorities still do the same if he did the same thing to another one of his children?
    I understand that he had also committed assault years ago? While he does deserve sympathy in no way is he a “victim” The real victim was Tracy and the fact that he did not regard her as a human being scares me! Mr. Latimer the legal system may forgive you, but your memories won’t. May you rot!

  4. isabella mori

    hello everyone, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

    @evan – if society imposes sanctions, what support does it provide? i think that’s a crucial question.

    @nancy – confronted with limitations. yes. limitations everywhere: what do we want as a society? what would we do if we were in that situation? and, as mentioned in the first blog quoted, what are the limitations around parole vs. what latimer did and tought?

    @andrea – welcome to this blog. not quite sure that i understand your first sentence – could you clarify?

  5. jael

    i need to believe in the humanity of robert latimer. would he do the same thing again, given the choice?

    would he be strong enough to put his daughter’s welfare ahead of his own, again, knowing ahead of time the price to be paid?

    i have respect and admiration for the courage it takes to make an unpopular choice, knowing there is no right choice.

    we are not endangered by the robert latimers of the world… i would trust him with a newborn baby with a disability…

    jael’s last blog post..rabbit hole day

  6. isabella mori

    @jael – “we are not endangered by the robert latimers of this world” – yes, that rings true. thanks for giving that perspective. it does feel like a one-off tragedy. that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned, or should discuss it; but robert latimer isn’t a threat to the world as, say, some politicians are.

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