The arrest, trial and imprisonment of Robert Latimer for ending the life of his ailing 12-year-old daughter Tracy, in 1993, has been a case of enduring concern to the Canadian public. Did our justice system fail to find justice in this difficult case? Here we present a condensed rendering of the actual words spoken during the various proceedings, so readers may decide for themselves – was justice served? Because of the length of the complete document, it will be presented in 5 installments, Part 1 here, and the subsequent 4 parts in upcoming issues of HP.
All words spoken, except those of the Narrator, are as they were actually spoken, taken from court documents, conversations and interviews, except when a minor change was made for clarity – such as substitution of a name for a pronoun. In no case is there any significant change to the words actually spoken. While much of the trial transcript is recorded here, cuts have been made to avoid repetition, to ensure relevance to the central story and to make the essential points in the document more accessible.
To aid in gaining a feeling for the various proceedings the dialogues here are presented as a play script, with stage directions included.
Suggested staging notes: projections at the back of the stage could be used to create a sense of place, for example scenes of Saskatchewan prairies and grain elevators, the farm in Wilkie, the North Battleford Courthouse, William Head prison, and others. Projections could also show titles of sections of the dialogue, as they appear in the script, and perhaps dates to give a sense of time.
- Narrator and staging suggestions – written by Gary Bauslaugh
- Protesters (at least three) – representative of many Latimer protests
- Scruffy man – actual words spoken at a talk on the Latimer case
- Older woman – actual words of a letter in a Victoria newspaper
- Randy Kirkham – prosecutor in first trial
- RCMP Constable
- Robert Latimer
- Laura Latimer – wife of Robert Latimer, mother of Tracy Latimer
- Sgt. Conlon – RCMP, Wilkie detachment
- Sgt. Lyons – RCMP, Wilkie detachment
- Justice Noble – presiding judge in second trial
- Eric Neufeld – prosecutor in second trial
- Mark Brayford – defence counsel for Robert Latimer
- Court Clerk
- Mr. Seebin: trial witness
- Ms. Clark: trial witness
- Mr. Pike: trial witness
- Dr. Dzus – orthopedic surgeon for Tracy Latimer
- Dr. Kemp – Latimer family doctor
- Jury Foreperson
- Parole Board (2 women, 1 man)
- Man and woman – representing the BC Community Living Association
The Latimer family, Robert and Laura Latimer and their four children, including the eldest, Tracy, lived just outside the small farming community of Wilkie, Saskatchewan. I met Robert Latimer in 2005 while he was still serving a murder sentence at the William Head prison near Victoria, and I subsequently visited him several other times there. Visitors were not allowed to bring in any sort of home-cooked food, so I usually brought him some fries and fast-food cheeseburgers.
By the time I met him, Robert Latimer had already spent seven years in legal proceedings and five years in prison for the murder of his daughter Tracy. He was halfway through a mandatory 10-year sentence.
The narrator is interrupted as the stage is lit and at least three protestors emerge from the wings carrying signs with messages denouncing Latimer. The messages read something like, “NO MERCY FOR LATIMER,” “BABY KILLER” and “HE MURDERED HIS DAUGHTER.” The protestors are chanting “murderer.” One of them, a scruffy-looking man, stops to speak as the others quiet down.
The three protestors reluctantly leave the stage, muttering.
An older woman, using a walker, comes into a spotlight.
Kirkham speaks as he walks into spotlight still on at centre stage.
Stage darkens as Kirkham leaves.
Laura Latimer prepared to take the three younger children to church that Sunday morning. Robert said he would stay home to do some chores, and to keep an eye on Tracy who, roused to be fed her breakfast at 10:30 am, would soon be put back to bed for her morning nap.
And then, around noon on that same day, Tracy died.
Scene changes to a meeting in the farmhouse kitchen between Robert Latimer and the Constable.
Do you wish to call a lawyer now?
Not really, no.
Robert goes to the coffee maker and starts to remove the old grounds.
Robert reaches in and takes out a bottle. The constable examines it – the bottle is clearly almost full. He puts it in his pocket.Robert is suddenly visibly nervous and drops the used coffee grounds on the floor. He gets down on his hands and knees frantically trying to scoop them up. He soon gives up and goes back to making the new coffee.
Fades out. Scene changes to farmhouse with two plainclothes RCMP officers knocking on the door. Robert Latimer, wearing a bathrobe, answers. The projection on the backdrop shows the date changing to one week later, November 1, 1993.
Officers go with him, then all return with Latimer who is wearing jeans, boots and a parka. In the meantime, Laura Latimer, holding an infant, has appeared on the front porch.
Fades out. Then light comes on with Latimer sitting at a table in the police station across from Lyons and Conlon.
Your daughter was in a great deal of pain. Bob, after considering all that is known, I have no doubt that you caused your daughter’s death.
There is a long pause; Robert looks distressed.
This is not something you wanted – you loved your daughter very much.
Latimer nods in agreement.
This is something you felt you had to do out of love for your daughter, isn’t it Bob? (No reply.) I can imagine this is very difficult for you and I feel bad. I know you were a loving, caring father. You only did what you felt was best for her out of love for your daughter. Isn’t that right Bob? (Pause.) That’s what happened, isn’t it Bob, isn’t that right?
Lights dim to denote passage of time, then the same scene reopens.
Fades to dark except for the Narrator.
The scene is now back at the Latimer farm, with Latimer and the same two officers.
Lights fade out momentarily
Fades out; date projection goes off.
- PART 1 – The Arrest – published here, in #HP222
- PART 2 – The Trials Begin – coming in #HP223
- PART 3 – Laura – coming in #HP224
- PART 4 – Summations & Verdict – coming in #HP225
- PART 5 – Parole – coming in #HP226