About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thoughts on Questions and Answers with Chad Barton

With today’s post I conclude a series of three posts involving The Goodbye Man by Chad Barton. Below this post are the posts for Questions and Answers with Chad and my review of the book. In this post I discuss the Questions posed to Chad and his Answers.

Unlike Chad I do not believe in the death penalty. As set out in my review I am Catholic and I support the church’s position against the death penalty. I do not think the state should decide who should live or die. Further I am aware of the frailties of our judicial system. Miscarriages of justice do take place. When I was in law school in the 1970’s a teenager, David Milgaard, was convicted of the rape and murder of a young woman in Saskatoon. Mainly because of his mother’s never ending efforts the case was re-examined. When all the evidence came out the true killer was identified and convicted. Milgaard was released after 23 years of wrongful imprisonment. Had there been the death penalty in Canada he would have been executed long before he was exonerated. A Royal Commission of Inquiry was held into his wrongful conviction. The Commission’s website is http://www.justice.gov.sk.ca/milgaard/.

Chad further supports mandatory maximum life sentences without parole for certain child molesters. I believe there should be life sentences for certain molesters. I am against mandatory sentences.

There is an arbitrariness to mandatory sentences that I believe is reflected in Chad’s answers. A teacher having intercourse with a teenage student would not draw the mandatory maximum but a doctor or priest fondling young boys would receive the mandatory maximum.

Communities may support the principle of mandatory sentences for strangers but not in my experience for people they personally know. In our community a long respected family doctor was convicted of fondling several young boys when they were patients. He was sent to prison for several years. I never heard anyone in our city say he should have received a life sentence.

I have personally dealt with families where there was a member of the family abusing others in the family. In one case, after the abuser served a jail sentence, the family addressed the abuse. With a mandatory life sentence I do not believe they could ever have reconciled and re-united as a family.

The last question concerns Robert Latimer, a farmer from Saskatchewan. As set out he killed his severely disabled daughter because he could not stand to see her continuing to suffer excruciating pain. He was convicted of second degree murder in two trials. (His first trial had been overturned on appeal because of prosecutorial misconduct.) In Canada a conviction for second degree murder draws a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail. Canadian juries do not know the prospective sentence if an accused is convicted. From all the information around the trials it was clear that the juries would not have convicted of second degree murder had they known there was a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. The second trial judge, even though it was contrary to the Criminal Code, tried to sentence Latimer to a lesser sentence on the basis it was cruel and unusual punishment to sentence him to 10 years. On appeal the sentence was increased to the 10 year minimum. I think the trial judge should have had the discretion to impose a sentence of less than 10 years. Readers seeking more information can look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Latimer.

I do not support mandatory sentences. They produce as many injustices as they purport to correct. 


  1. Thank you Bill. I'm totally against the death penalty too. Like you, I think society has no right to take the life of a human being, it doesn´t work as a form of prevention, and the simple possibility of killing an innocent are, in my mind, reasons strong enough to ban death penalty, with no exception, no matter how horrendous a crime is for our sensibility

  2. Jose Ignacio: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your opinion and reasoning.

  3. Bill - What a thoughtful, reasoned and interesting post. You craft your arguments effectively and you make well-taken points. I'm opposed to the death penalty, myself, for several reasons. One is that it does not act as a deterrent; research has not associated to my satisfaction existence of the death penalty and a decrease in violent crime such as murder. Another reason is that technology is constantly improving. The person we convict today who claims innocence may indeed be exonerated in five years or ten if the case is revisited.

    As for mandatory sentences, I see your points. I honestly still haven't come to a firm conclusion about my own position on that question, but you make solid arguments. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  4. Margot: Thank you for interesting comment.

    You outline one of the reasons David Milgaard was cleared in that the analysis of DNA evidence, only available as a scientific process long after the trial, identified the real killer.

    On mandatory sentencing I would be interested in your thoughts on whether you think the "three strikes rule" of the state of California is working.

  5. Bill - Thanks for asking. I fear I'm not really qualified to give you a sophisticated answer as I'm not a legal or law-enforcement professional. From what I have seen and read, though, I've come to the conclusion that the "three strikes" rule is having some effect, but that it's coming at several costs: there is a growing inmate population in a state where the population of inmates was already high; the crime rate has lowered, but I'm not convinced that "three strikes" is the major reason for that (correlation not implying causality); in a state with severe economic problems, the cost to maintain "three strikes" must be considered. That's not to say that applying that law is never the right choice; I'm just not convinced it's the solution it was "sold" as being. here's a link to an article about the topic that you may find interesting.

  6. Margot: Thank you for taking up the question and providing a well reasoned response.

    I found the article interesting. It made clear that the "three strikes" rule is far from mandatory. There is judicial discretion and prosecutorial discretion. In the end, those are the types of discretion applied when there is no "rule". It would appear the rule is being applied as a charging option. I expect in an era where your state has massive deficit issues there will be a decline in the application of the rule.

  7. Bill - You're probably right about that. I'll be interested to see how and to what extent it's applied five or ten years from now...

  8. Margot: Thanks for replying. I am going to diarize the post for 7.5 years for us to renew the discussion.