Latimer v. The Queen

1 S.C.R. 3, 193 D.L.R. (4th) 577 (2001)


D was charged with first-degree murder following the death of Tracy (T), his 12-year-old daughter who had a severe form of cerebral palsy. T was quadriplegic, and her physical condition rendered her immobile. T the mental capacity of a four-month-old baby, and could communicate only by means of facial expressions, laughter, and crying. T was completely dependent on others for her care. She suffered five to six seizures daily, and it was thought that she experienced a great deal of pain. She had to be spoon-fed, and her lack of nutrients caused weight loss. T could have been fed with a feeding tube into her stomach, but D and his wife rejected this option. After learning that the doctors wished to perform additional surgery, which he perceived as mutilation, D decided to take his daughter’s life. D carried T to his pickup truck, seated her in the cab, and inserted a hose from the truck’s exhaust pipe into the cab. T died from the carbon monoxide. D was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole eligibility for 10 years; the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and sentence. D appealed, and a new trial was ordered. D asked the trial judge for a ruling, in advance of his closing submissions, on whether the jury could consider the defense of necessity. The trial judge later ruled that the defense was not available. The jury sent the trial judge a note inquiring, in part, whether it could offer any input into sentencing. The trial judge told the jury it was not to concern itself with the penalty. He told the jury that they will have some discussions about that. After the jury returned with a guilty verdict, the trial judge explained the mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment and asked the jury whether it had any recommendation as to whether the ineligibility for parole should exceed the minimum period of 10 years. Some jury members appeared upset, according to the trial judge, and later sent a note asking him if they could recommend less than the 10-year minimum. The jury recommended one year before parole eligibility. The trial judge then granted a constitutional exemption from the mandatory minimum sentence, sentencing the accused to one year of imprisonment and one year on probation. The Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction but reversed the sentence, imposing the mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment without parole eligibility for 10 years. D appealed.