The Latimer case: a timeline
The nearly 15-year history of one of Canada's best known legal sagas
Chris Selley | Mar 10, 2008 | 22:16:35
Also at Macleans.ca:
- Robert Latimer's angry crusade | The Saskatchewan farmer is determined to clear his name, and to prove he did nothing wrong
- 'Mercy' without borders | It's not just just Canadians who struggle with parents who kill their disabled children
November 23, 1980: Tracy Latimer is born suffering severe cerebral palsy, the result of her brain being deprived of oxygen at birth. She never develops control over her extremities or the ability to feed herself or sit up under her own power.
1990: With Tracy's body increasingly contorted, a Saskatoon surgeon, Anne Dzus, cuts and lengthens tendons in Tracy's legs in an attempt to alleviate her suffering.
1992: With Tracy's spine curved to 73 degrees, Dzus inserts steel rods into her back to straighten her spine.
Summer 1993: With Tracy's mother, Laura, pregnant and unable to sufficiently care for Tracy, the Latimers temporarily move their daughter to a group home.
October 1993: Tracy returns home having lost a huge amount of weight and with a dislocated hip. Dzus recommends surgery—which likely would have involved removing the ball of the joint, letting the leg hang loose. Dzus is not convinced Tracy has the strength to survive the operation, and there is no guarantee it would lessen her pain. The surgery is scheduled for November 4.
October 24, 1993: While Laura and Tracy's three siblings are at church, Robert puts Tracy in his pickup truck and redirects the truck's exhaust pipe into the cab. Tracy dies of carbon monoxide poisoning, after which Robert places her in her bed and, when Laura returns home, telephones police and reports Tracy died in her sleep. An autopsy is ordered, which reveals the true cause of death.
November 4, 1993: Latimer takes police on a videotaped tour of his farm, during which he explains how he directed the exhaust from his truck into the cab, where Tracy died. He confesses to killing Tracy, and is arrested and charged.
November 7, 1994: Robert Latimer goes on trial for first-degree murder.
November 16, 1994: Jurors find Latimer guilty of second-degree murder after four hours of deliberations. He is sentenced to 10 years in prison.
November 26, 1994: After just nine days in custody, Latimer is released pending an appeal.
July 18, 1995: Latimer's appeal is denied by the Saskatchewan Supreme Court in a two-to-one decision. The Chief Justice, Edward Bayda, dissented: "The evidence, as disclosed by the affidavits and exhibits, of widespread public outrage in the nation resulting from this sentence is unmistakable," he wrote. "To ignore it, in my respectful view, is to risk arrogance."
October 25, 1995: The Saskatchewan Justice Department announces that Latimer is entitled to a new trial if he wants one, because the RCMP—at the request of prosecutor Randy Kirkham—had quizzed potential jurors, some of whom ended up on the panel, about their ethical beliefs.
October 30, 1995: Latimer's lawyers file their appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada.
June 27, 1996: Kirkham is charged with obstruction of justice.
February 6, 1997: The SCC sets aside Latimer's conviction, citing prosecutorial misconduct and ruling his confession inadmissible, and orders another trial. Latimer calls the justices "bloodthirsty butchers" for prolonging his torment. "They have no limits on how you can torture a person and they will carry forward with it," he says.
October 27, 1997: The second trial begins with allegations from an RCMP officer that Latimer was visibly nervous and upset at the prospect of an autopsy being performed on Tracy.
November 5, 1997: Latimer is again convicted of second-degree murder. Jurors recommend he spend a year in prison before being eligible for parole, but the legal minimum is ten years.
December 1, 1997: The judge hands down a precedent-setting sentence of one year in prison and one year's house arrest, on grounds that the statutory 10-year minimum would amount to cruel and unusual punishment and violate the Charter of Rights. Latimer calls the judge courageous, but some advocates for the disabled are dismayed.