FAQs about the Latimer Case

(April 20, 2000)

When was Tracy murdered?

Tracy was murdered on Sunday, 24 October 1993. She was 12 years old at the time of her death.

Was Tracy's disability unique?

No. Her mother testified in court that there are thousands of children in North American, and indeed all over the world, who have Cerebral Palsy like Tracy had.

Was Tracy in constant unrelenting pain?

No. In court, Laura read aloud numerous accounts which she, herself, had written describing Tracy as a happy, contented, smiling little girl, enjoying desserts, bonfires, and other childhood pastimes.

Did Tracy have medical problems?

Yes. For example, her most immediate problem in 1993 was a dislocated right hip and she had been scheduled for surgery which had as its goal to make her pain free. This surgery is successful in the majority of cases.

When did Latimer confess to having killed Tracy?

Latimer first lied and tried to conceal what he had done. Prior to the autopsy, Latimer said that Tracy died in her sleep. When the autopsy proved that Tracy died of carbon monoxide poisoning, Latimer confessed to gassing her in his truck and then putting her in bed.

How did Latimer murder Tracy?

He put her in the front seat of his truck beside the steering wheel. He attached a hose to the exhaust pipe and put the other end through a narrow opening in the cab's rear window. He then started the engine at 11:30 am. In seconds the truck filled with lethal fumes. Latimer told the police, "I let it run until noon. I was timing all this stuff I was sitting there watching through the back window."

Did Latimer consider using other methods to kill his daughter?

Yes. He looked at giving her an overdose of valium or shooting her and then burning the body in a fire. The Crown Prosecutor called it a calculated scheme.

Does Latimer express any guilt or remorse?

No. "I honestly don't believe there was ever any crime committed," stated Robert Latimer in a CBC video entered by the Crown as evidence.

When did Robert Latimer decide to kill his daughter?

In his confession, Robert Latimer said he decided to kill Tracy 12 days prior to actually committing the murder. He made the decision after learning Tracy's doctor had offered surgery to remedy Tracy's pain from a chronic hip dislocation.

Why did Robert Latimer dislike the idea of surgery as a remedy for Tracy's hip dislocation?

Latimer described the surgery as mutilation.

Why is Robert Latimer not facing a conviction for first degree murder?

The first trial acquitted Robert Latimer of first degree murder and found him guilty of second degree murder. The Crown did not appeal the acquittal therefore Latimer faces a second degree murder conviction.

How many times has this case been to court?

There have been two trials, two appeals to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, and the June appeal will be the second time that the case has gone before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Is this the usual course that a murder case would take?

Due to irregularities in the jury selection process, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered that a new trial be held. This created a domino effect, leading to additional appeals at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

What sentences has Robert Latimer received?

After the first trial he was sentenced to the mandatory sentence for second degree murder (life with no opportunity for parole until 10 years of the sentence have been served). The conclusion of the second trial was a constitutional exemption to the mandatory sentence which would have seen Latimer serving one year in jail and one year on his farm. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that the trial judge was in error in having given Latimer a constitutional exemption and upheld the Criminal Code provisions for second degree murder. He is appealing the sentence.

Where is Robert Latimer?

Robert Latimer has been out on bail, during the various stages that the case has taken. He is with his family on his farm in Wilkie, Saskatchewan.

What are some of the resources available that provide a disability rights perspective on the Latimer case?

Ruth Enns, woman with a disability, recently published a book about the case called A Voice Unheard The Latimer Case and People with Disabilities, published by Fernwood Press. This book is available through Canadian booksellers. Dr. Gregor Wolbring has many articles on his web page addressing euthanasia (www.bioethicsanddisability.org/). There is an internet discussion group (SubscribeTracyLatimer@egroups.com). CCD has produced a booklet called the Latimer Case: The Reflections of People with Disabilities, which presents writings by a variety of consumers discussing the impact that the case has had on Canadian society. (Available from CCD for $5.00 plus $2.00 for shipping.)