Compassionate justice: Neither just nor compassionate

by R. Rodríguez Bencomo

On Friday September, 9th one of the most terrible miscarriages of justice happened in Edmonton, Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench at the hands of judge Joanne Veit, who handed down a three-year suspended sentence for infanticide to Katrina Effert, convicted of strangling her new-born child and throwing the body over a neighbor’s fence1. Effert, as per the judges ruling, must abide by certain conditions during her sentence time, but no jail or otherwise punishment will come her way. In justifying her decision the judge wrote:

“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”2

This explanation, which barely is an unsubstantiated personal opinion by the judge about many Canadians’ position on abortion, is also anathema to justice and to the functions of judges. The judiciary – as judge Veit should know- do not administer justice according to the wishes or opinions of the majority nor to what is in line with the sentiments of the population. That’s the function of Parliament; to legislate and shape society to represent the people of the nation. A judge – particularly so a judge in the highest appellate court of the province- ought not even consider what any one believes about the demands of pregnancy. What does a judge know about what is onerous or not?

This is a clear example of a judge legislating from the bench, and tragically, to the shame of justice and to the worse of society. In her sentencing, the judge expands in what can only be described as her personal beliefs in regard to the society she seems to think she represents. She says: “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.”3 Who in the world told that woman she speaks for the Canadian people or that it matters at all in handing a sentence?! The only thing of relevance is that a legal person, a born baby, was murdered by his mother, who was convicted by her peers. The judge grieved justice when handed a sentence carrying no real punishment to the criminal and furthermore dared to give her some words of empathy.

There is a sad lessons to be learnt from this, if anyone cares to see. First and foremost: justifying the killing of innocents can and will only lead to more killings of innocents. An abortion is precisely that, and this slippery slope – as proven by Effert’s sentence- translate in an ever-growing realm of situations in which the underlying principles justifying abortion will apply. As best presented by Mark Steyn in National Review Online: “How long do those mitigating factors apply? I mean, “onerous demands”-wise, the first month of a newborn’s life is no picnic for the mother. How about six months in? The terrible twos? (…) suppose you’re a “mother without support” who’s also got an elderly relative around with an “onerous” chronic condition also making inroads into your time?”4

Even more sadly, all this said, where are the marches on the street by scandalized citizens demanding a redress of justice and asking their elected officials to legislate so this doesn’t happen again? How about the fact that the defense attorney, when asked about the possibility that Effert might spend 14 days in jail for throwing the body into the neighbor’s yard, said it’d be “unjust” and “almost mean to incarcerate her”5. Unjust? A baby was killed, the murderer walks free and no one is scandalized the adjective unjust is used to address jail time for the criminal? After the Casey Anthony trial and the apparent miscarriage of justice that occurred, legislators in various states across the U.S. hurried to enact laws ensuring such thing would never repeat itself. Where are now the noble representatives of the Canadian people, always proud of being more humane, compassionate and better all-around than those rough and arrogant Americans, as Canadians see themselves? Canada, we have a problem.



2. Ibid

3. Ibid