Sept 23/10 - Pt 2: Infanticide

A woman known only as L.B. confessed to killing two of her children. But she wasn't convicted of murder. Her case is back before the courts this morning. And the defense of infanticide -- along with the idea that mothers who murder their babies sometimes deserve special consideration -- are up for debate.



She was a teenager when she lost her two infants. But it was only after she had another child 3 years later that she confessed to smothering the first 2. The woman - who can only be identified as L.B. - was charged with 1st degree murder and spent 2 and a half years in custody awaiting trial. Evidence at the trial portrayed her as immature and needy.

And though the judge cited evidence that she had committed two deliberate murders L.B. was convicted of a lesser offense... infanticide. She was sentenced to 1 day in jail. This case is going before the Ontario Court of appeal today. The crown will argue that infanticide is no longer a legitimate defense that women who kill their babies don't deserve special consideration.

Crown Attorney Jennifer Woolcombe turned down our request for an interview. But her brief states that ...No clear biological link exists between postpartum hormones and violence. ... If there were a truly medical or scientific basis for excusing women who kill after giving birth, one would expect that infanticide would be available to women who kill older children, their spouse, their neighbours or anyone else during the period of disturbance.

But that's not how Joanna Birenbaum sees it. She's the Director of Litigation with the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund, or LEAF. LEAF has intervener status in this case. We aired a clip.

The debate hinges on whether infanticide is still a legitimate defence. Kirsten Kramar has looked at every case of infanticide in Canada over the last 100 years. She's a criminologist at the University of Winnipeg. She's also the author of Unwilling Mothers, Unwanted babies: Infanticide in Canada. Kirsten Kramar was in Winnipeg. Sanjeev Anand is a professor in the faculty of law at the University of Alberta. He was in Edmonton.

Articles of Interest: Is infanticide a legitimate defence? / LEAF addresses Gendered social context of the Crime of Infanticide / Test case to challenge postpartum-depression defence / Hearing tests postpartum depression defence / Fortney: Is infanticide charge outdated?

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