Friday, February 29, 2008

A Long Hard Road

Last December, in a post titled "May She Rest In Peace, May He Find Mercy" I wrote this concerning the Robert Latimer case:
I sincerely hope some compassion and understanding will be shown, that justice will prevail and Mr. Latimer will be soon be released. To return to his home and community, where, if I recall correctly, he enjoys widespread support. To return to his wife, who continues to remain steadfast at his side. To grieve privately for his daughter. As he is entitled to.
And although I know some many will disagree with me, I think maybe we are a step closer to see that happening. The decision to deny Mr. Latimer day parole has now been overturned on appeal.
In a move that pleased Latimer's supporters but angered some advocates for people with disabilities, the National Parole Board Appeal Division reversed a decision in early December by a three-person panel of the parole board that denied parole to Latimer, saying he refused to acknowledge his actions were a crime.
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"Ultimately, [it] decided that he really didn't lack insight into his actions and motivations in a way that was sufficient to demonstrate that he presented an undue risk to society if released into day parole," Gratl said.

Yeah, I know I appear to be in the minority on this one, at least in regards to the disability community.
Marie White, chairwoman of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, wondered if any other killer would be granted parole in the absence of remorse."Due process was followed and no one can argue with due process," White said from her home in St. John’s, N.L. "I question if this issue had come up before the appeals board and it involved someone who didn’t have a disability, whether the same decision would have been rendered."
But in a case that has divided public opinion, not just in Canada but around the world, for the past 15 years and shown that perhaps not all "advocates for the disabled" see things quite the say way, I found this comment from one of the jurors who convicted Latimer telling.
"As a member of society I feel I did my job as far as deciding whether he’s guilty or not guilty — he’s guilty," Keyko said in an interview from his home in North Battleford on Wednesday night. "I’m not happy he served how much time he served and now that he’s paroled, I am happy about the outcome."
As are Mr. Latimer's more recent actions:
Latimer has never said he was wrong or admitted any remorse. He has spent his years behind bars writing letters to the Supreme Court and federal politicians complaining about what he sees as the flawed reasoning that maintained his conviction. He has continued running the family farm remotely, with the help of workers.
"By now, most Canadian realize that Tracy’s death was not an act of malice, but an escape from a life no sane person would want to live," Latimer wrote in a recent letter to The Canadian Press. "Canadian courts insist her death was murder."
And apparently Latimer doesn't intend to quietly return to his former life and "put the matter behind him". He originally sought day parole in the Ottawa area in order to pursue advocacy work with respect to his life sentence. Say what you will, whatever your feeling are on his actions, Latimer certainly appears to be a man with a mission.

Fifteen years later, after fifteen years of involvment with the legal system and well over seven years of imprisonment, Latimer still believes that he did the right thing for his daughter given the circumstances she was in. It's funny how many seem to want to ignore forget that this father was motivated by the constant, unremitting pain his daughter was in and the fact that there was little to nothing her parents could give her to ease it.

I'm not saying that what he did was 'right". But I' won't say that it was 'wrong' either. And that's not because I have any difficulty with "judging" people. Actually, I'm actually pretty good at that. But I can't see how this man's actions, in these unique circumstances, threaten the life, dignity or value of my child's life or that of any other disabled person. The whole situation was tragic. And I all I can really hope now is that, somehow, both father and daughter find peace.

Update: What they said. Said a little better than I.


Kris, in New England said...

Michelle - I agree with you. What Mr. Latimer did, he did out of love for his daughter. A love, I would argue, that rivals that of people with children who are not disabled as severely as his daughter. He spared her from a life of unrelenting pain. He should be allowed to go home to his family and grieve for his daughter in the bosom of the only people who can ever understand what it must have taken him to do this.

MMC said...

Thanks, Kris. You are no doubt among the very few who would agree with me on this issue.

It's interesting, actually, I notice that very few of my friends commented on my previous post on Latimer. I assume it's because they disagree but don't want to come out and say to me what they think?

Anyway, I am glad Latimer has been granted day parole. Some people don't seem to realize that that is far from a far release on parole though. But it's such a sad, sad story.

Kris, in New England said...

It's horribly sad, for everyone. I'm surprised that more people don't agree with you. I did see a commenter on your original post who said all people who kill their children should go to jail for life. I wonder if Miss Hailey (the commenter) has ever seen what Mr. Latimer and his family had to see - a daughter in constant, horrifying pain, with no option to help her and with their daughter incapable of understanding that they can't give her more medicine.

There is a very old Native American saying that talks about walking a mile in a person's shoes before judging them.