Saskatchewan farmer Robert Latimer stands by his decision to end the life of his severely disabled daughter almost 20 years ago, in his first interview since being released on full parole in December. . . "I know I was right," Latimer, 57, declares.Tracy, 12, had severe cerebral palsy, and suffered chronic pain from repeated surgeries. She couldn't walk, talk, or feed herself. The decision to end her suffering was hard "but it was not sad," said Latimer, who has always insisted his "mercy killing" asphyxiation was motivated by his love and compassion for Tracy. . . In 1994, he was convicted of second-degree murder, but the jury described his crime as a "mercy killing" and recommended a one-year sentence. The judge at Latimer's trial, in an attempt to distinguish "compassionate homicide" from murder, granted him a constitutional exemption from any mandatory sentence. After several appeals, the exemption was thrown out, and Latimer was sentenced to 10 years in jail.
I will not presume even to be able to imagine what it must feel like to see one's child suffering on a daily basis. I don't want to be in any way judgmental of people who can't deal with witnessing the unrelieved and constant pain of a loved one. Who knows how one would act in such a horrible situation? Who knows what any one of us might be driven to as a result?
However, there is something in this situation that makes me suspect Latimer of being driven not as much by his love for his daughter and his desire to relieve her suffering as by his love for himself and his desire to relieve his own suffering. A person driven to such desperation that they engage in a mercy killing of their child will probably see that as the defining and the darkest moment of their life. Even if they were convinced that they had done the best thing possible for their child, wouldn't they still care about the child's death more than about the consequences they suffered as a result?
Latimer, however, seems a lot more centered on the perceived injustice that was done to him and not on the suffering and the death (at his hands, too) of his daughter:
But the soft-spoken farmer sees his case differently, and harbours deep anger towards the Canadian justice system, and against those who dare judge him. "They're just a bunch of arrogant, self-righteous, religious-backed people. They don't care about Tracy," he said. "They're just a bunch of sadistic butchers, really. They have to come clean on that. What is the legal alternative that we were supposed to take by law?" . . . Latimer said he feels branded, and often dreams of a new trial by jury, convinced that another judicial review of his case would perhaps produce a different verdict, and clear his name.
There is so much anger here against the justice system, and very little concern for a child who lived a short and tortured existence and has now been dead for a very long time. As I said, I don't presume to know what it feels like to kill a loved one to end their suffering. But wouldn't a person driven to such an act care a lot less than Latimer about another trial, clearing his name, or anything like that?
P.S. Thank you, Patrick! What would I do without my readers?