Alberta woman weeps at infanticide sentencing

Katrina Effert cried in an Edmonton courtroom during her sentencing hearing Thursday as she apologized for killing newborn son more than six years ago.
Katrina Effert, shown here in a 2009 court sketch, was sentenced on an infanticide conviction Thursday. (CBC)

Katrina Effert cried in an Edmonton courtroom during her sentencing hearing Thursday as she apologized for killing newborn son more than six years ago.

"I'm sorry for everything that's happened," she said while fighting back tears. "Especially to my family. I put them through so much."

Katrina Effert follows her mother out of court Thursday. (CBC)

It was the first time Effert has addressed the court in regard to her crime. 

"I wish I could take it all back, but I can't," she said. "I'll take my responsibility for what I've done."

Earlier, her lawyer described how her being charged and convicted twice of killing her newborn son helped end her parents' marriage.

"She is exhausted by this process at this stage," said Peter Royal. "I think she wants some finality."

Royal told the hearing that Effert's parents separated 18 months ago "in part because of the strain of these proceedings."

At that point, Effert and her mother began sobbing. Effert's father was not in court Thursday. 

The Wetaskiwin woman was 19 years old on April 13, 2005 when she secretly gave birth in her parents' home, strangled the baby boy with her underwear and threw the body over a fence into a neighbour's yard.

Court overturned murder conviction

Two years ago, for the second time, a jury found her guilty of murder, but last May the province's highest court decided the jury made a mistake.

In a rare move, 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.

At the sentencing hearing Thursday Crown prosecutor John Laluk recommended a four-year sentence saying, "We have to remember this is a homicide."

The maximum sentence for infanticide is five years in prison.

Royal said he was "completely taken aback by the crown's position," and asked for a suspended sentence of two to three years to be served in the community.

"What this woman needs is support and understanding," he said. "She doesn't need to be trucked off to the penetentiary".

"This is a very fine young woman who went through a tragic event.

"She seeks understanding from the court, which I suspect will be forthcoming."

Justice Joanne Veit reserved her decision until Friday afternoon.

The Crown is still waiting to hear if the Supreme Court of Canada will hear its appeal of the Alberta Court of Appeal's ruling.

With files from the CBC's Janice Johnston