Calgary

Patricia Couture, charged in disabled daughter's death, denied state-funded lawyer

A Calgary mother accused of causing her disabled daughter's death was denied a provincially funded lawyer on Tuesday. Patricia Couture, 68, was charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life after her daughter died in April.

Calgary mother charged with failing to provide necessaries of life in disabled daughter's death

Patricia Couture is charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life to her disabled daughter. (Court sketch by Janice Fletcher)

A Calgary mother accused of causing her disabled daughter's death was denied a provincially funded lawyer on Tuesday.

Patricia Couture, 68, was charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life after her daughter Melissa died on April 26.

After trial, Couture's legal costs are estimated to be about $25,000.

Though she owns a home worth $500,000, and has about $70,000 in liquid assets, Couture's lawyer Andre Ouellette argued that the government should foot the bill for her legal costs.

Defence lawyer Andre Ouellette made an application asking a judge to order the provincial government to pay for Patricia Couture's legal fees. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

"If you're an ordinary middle class person and you've been careful with your finances, you're punished for having been prudent," said Ouellette.

After she was denied legal aid, Couture brought forward a so-called Robotham application, requesting a judge to order the government to pay for her lawyer.

With an Old Age Security income of $570 per month, Ouellette estimated his client spends about double that and is dipping into her savings.

Ouellette argued Couture will not receive a fair trial and would become "impoverished" if she was denied coverage.

Couture not 'indigent'

Provincial Court Judge Cheryl Daniel denied Couture's application on Tuesday after arguments were made last week by Ouellette and Allan Shewchuck, who represented Alberta's Attorney General.

"Having $571,000 worth of unencumbered assets is certainly not, by anyone's definition 'indigent,'" said Daniel in her written decision.

Couture had been a single mother to Melissa, according to neighbours.

Aside from the developmental disability, police said Melissa also had a chronic medical issue.

The medical examiner deemed Couture's death suspicious and the homicide unit became involved.

Couture is back in court on Aug. 2.

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