EDMONTON — News that Katrina Effert received a three-year suspended sentence Sept. 9 for killing her newborn son horrifies Campaign Life Coalition’s organizer Mary Ellen Douglas.
“There is a total lack of compassion for the child who has lost his life. He was murdered and discarded so dispassionately.”
The court heard testimony that Effert, at age 19, gave birth in her Wetaskiwin parents’ basement, strangled her son with her thong underwear and tossed his corpse into the neighbour’s backyard.
Effert, now 25, was convicted twice of second degree murder by two separate juries and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 10 years. Both were tossed out on appeal and the Alberta Court of Appeal found the murder conviction unreasonable and substituted infanticide.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Joanne Veit, in passing down the suspended sentence, termed Effert’s behaviour, “a classic infanticide case — the killing of a newborn after a hidden pregnancy by a mother who was alone and unsupported.”
Crown prosecutor John Laluk argued for a four-year penitentiary sentence pointing out Effert initially lied to police.
Effert had claimed she was a virgin and then blamed her boyfriend for the killing.
The judge, however, said the lies Effert told police were in fact “painful evidence” of her disturbed mental state at that time.
“This minimal slap on the wrist sets a precedent for other people,” worries Douglas. “Knowing there is a penalty keeps people from doing things like this.”
The Campaign Life official pleaded with members of Parliament to take a stand on protecting infants.
“The judgment weighs so heavily on compassion for the mother but not for the baby,” says Douglas.
“Where is the cut-off date for the court’s tolerance of killing defenceless people,” asked CLC national president Jim Hughes.
“Where will it end: a month-old child whose parent has decided is not worthy of life, a six-month-old child, a two-year-old child, a special needs child, or how about a teenager?”
The court noted Effert served the equivalent of 7 1/2 months in pre-trial custody and is undergoing psychiatric care. She must now also serve 16 days in jail as part of a 90-day sentence for disposing of a body in order to conceal it.
Court also told Effert she must notify officials if she becomes pregnant so she can receive assistance and counselling.
The Crown has sought leave to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.