In citing Canada's abortion laws, an Edmonton appeal court ruled that an Alberta woman who strangled her son with her underwear after secretly giving birth in 2005, will face no guaranteed jail time.
Katrina Effert was sentenced Friday for killing her newborn and then throwing the body over a fence into the neighbor's yard on April 13, 2005, when she was 19. She was given a three-year suspended sentence by Judge Joanne Veit wherein if she abides by the court's conditions for the next three years, she will not spend time behind bars. CBC notes the justification given by the judge for such an astounding sentence:
"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."
The judge also rejected arguments that the single father and the grandparent also face "the same stresses of the mind" as a mother who kills her own baby.
Effert's Defense Lawyer Peter Royal said it was "unjust" and "almost mean" to incarcerate her for the 16 days of jail time she must still serve for throwing her son's body over a fence.
The Edmonton Journal reports that when questioned by police, Effert initially told them she was a virgin and later said she had given the newborn to her boyfriend. Her defense argued that those actions were evidence that Effert had a disturbed state of mind, which the judge argues validates infanticide being that she was disturbed at the time she killed her child.
In Canada, infanticide, is a lesser crime than homicide. The Criminal Code of Canada classifies infanticide as:
"A female person commits infanticide when by a wilful act or omission she causes the death of her newly-born child, if at the time of the act or omission she is not fully recovered from the effects of giving birth to the child and by reason thereof or of the effect of lactation consequent on the birth of the child her mind is then disturbed"
Punishment for a mother killing their newborn?
"Every female person who commits infanticide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years."
Effert has been defending her actions in court for six years. 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. According to the CBC, 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.
The Crown, the federal prosecutor, has sought leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
When leaving the court Friday Effert covered her face to cameras.