Posted: Sep 9, 2011 2:23 PM MT
Last Updated: Sep 9, 2011 8:48 PM MT
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The Wetaskiwin, Alta., woman convicted of infanticide for killing her newborn son, was given a three-year suspended sentence Friday by an Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench judge.
Katrina Effert was 19 on April 13, 2005, when she secretly gave birth in her parents’ home, strangled the baby boy with her underwear and threw the body over a fence into a neighbour’s yard.
She silently wept as Justice Joanne Veit outlined the reasons for the suspended sentence. Effert will have to abide by conditions for the next three years but she won’t spend time behind bars for strangling her newborn son.
In her judgment, the judge rejected arguments from the Crown that the single father and the grandparent also face “the same stresses of the mind” as a mother who kills her own baby.
The fact that Canada has no abortion laws reflects that “while many Canadians undoubtedly view abortion as a less than ideal solution to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy, they generally understand, accept and sympathize with the onerous demands pregnancy and childrbirth exact from mothers, especially mothers without support,” she writes.
The judge noted that infanticide laws and sentencing guidelines were not altered when the government made many changes to the Criminal Code in 2005, which she says shows that Canadians view the law as a “fair compromise of all the interests involved.”
“Naturally, Canadians are grieved by an infant’s death, especially at the hands of the infant’s mother, but Canadians also grieve for the mother.”
Appeal court overturned jury’s decision
Next week, the court will hear arguments on a remaining issue from Effert’s long legal battle: the 16 days of jail time she still must serve for throwing her baby’s body over the fence.
Her lawyer, Peter Royal, asked the court to do away with the penalty or allow her to serve the time on weekends. It was “unjust” and “almost mean to incarcerate her” at this point, he argued.
Effert was allowed to walk out of court, but she covered her head with a jacket to avoid cameras and quickly ducked into a waiting vehicle.
Two years ago, for the second time, a jury found Effert guilty of second-degree murder, but last May the province’s highest court decided the jury made a mistake.
In a rare move, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the conviction, replacing it with the lesser one of infanticide.
The appeal court said Effert should have been given the benefit of the doubt based on psychiatric evidence.