Catholic Group Hails Ruling Against ´Mercy Killer´

Canada Court Sends Man Back to Jail for Daughter´s Death

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OTTAWA, JAN. 19, 2001 (
A Catholic group welcomed a decision by the Supreme Court ruling out
leniency for a man who murdered his handicapped daughter in a so-called mercy
killing that shocked the nation.

The country´s highest court on Thursday rejected the arguments of Robert Latimer
that he asphyxiated his 12-year-old daughter Tracy in 1993 out of love and necessity.
It unanimously upheld the legal requirement for second-degree murder of a life
sentence with no parole for at least 10 years.

Tracy had suffered from severe cerebral palsy and Latimer´s lawyers said she
had been in constant pain.

The Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life praised the court´s decision.
“The court´s decision is an eloquent affirmation of the value of each human
life and the role of the state to protect human life, especially when it is most
vulnerable is in the case of Tracy Latimer,” the group said in a statement.

The Ottawa-based group represents four major organizations in the Catholic Church,
including the bishops´ conference.

The Supreme Court in its 7-0 decision said, “In considering the defense of necessity,
we must remain aware of the need to respect the life, dignity and equality of all
the individuals affected the act in question. The fact that the victim in this case
was disabled rather than able-bodied does not affect our conclusion.´´

A clearly shocked Latimer said at his Saskatchewan farm — where he has been free
on bail pending the court ruling — that he could not understand how the judges had
come to their conclusion but added he had no regrets about what he had done,
according to a Reuters report.

“I can´t see how they figured out that´s right, but obviously they´ve done it …
it´s pretty unusual. Wouldn´t most people think that?´´ he told reporters outside
his house a few minutes after the ruling was announced.

The debate over involuntary euthanasia has pitted arguments by Latimer about
Tracy´s suffering against those of disabled groups outraged that a lower standard
of justice should apply to offenses against handicapped people, Reuters said.

Latimer had put Tracy in his pickup truck and piped in exhaust fumes until she
died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He has said he would do it again.

The Supreme Court did take the unusual step of noting that the government had
the “royal prerogative of mercy´´ — it could cut
Latimer´s sentence or pardon him. But the government itself had argued against
leniency during the lengthy court proceedings.

In rejecting the argument that the sentence was cruel and unusual,
the high court said a valid goal of severe sentences was to deter like-minded individuals.
“This is particularly so where the victim is a vulnerable person with respect to age,
disability or other similar factors,´´ it said.

It was not clear exactly when Latimer would return to prison,
but shortly after talking to reporters on his farm, he and his wife drove to Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan, to talk to his lawyer.

Latimer´s lawyers said Tracy had been slated to have a portion of her
thighbone removed to deal with a dislocated hip — which Latimer and his wife viewed as mutilation.
They said Tracy could not walk or feed herself, had trouble swallowing
and had suffered from bronchitis, pneumonia and seizures.

Government lawyers said Tracy´s health had improved in 1992 and 1993
and her hip operation would have helped further.
They said she was not in constant pain and could enjoy music,
respond to family members and visit other disabled children.

Handicapped representatives welcomed Thursday´s ruling,
saying it assured them equal protection under the law.

Canada, like other countries around the world, is grappling with how to
deal with assisted suicide, and voluntary or involuntary euthanasia.
The lower house of parliament in the Netherlands voted in November to legalize euthanasia.
The U.S. state of Oregon allows physician-assisted suicide,
but referendums on this issue were defeated Maine and Michigan.

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