Mercy Killing or Murder: The Tracy Latimer Story

Written by:

Michele Decottignies

Artist/Creator(s) Identify As:

2SLGBTQIA+
D/deaf, Disabled, and/or Mad

Cast Size:
46

Roles For:

  • Men: 21
  • People with Disabilities: 46
  • Women: 25

Genre:

Biography
Documentary
Verbatim/Research-Based

Themes:

Canadian History
Death
Disability
Ethics
History
Justice
Justice System
Media
Murder
Non-Linear Narrative
Non-Normative Bodies

Length:

60 min.

Year Written:

2003

Synopsis:

The play’s subject matter is based on a real-life Canadian crime: the 1993 premeditated killing of 13-year-old Tracy Latimer by her father, who claimed he had no choice but to kill her because she was in “constant, excruciating pain” due to cerebral palsy. Robert Latimer employed this “necessity” defense in court (though no such legal defense exists in Canadian law), creating sympathy in the media, and even though the murder was premeditated, he received a second-degree rather than a first-degree murder sentence resulting in ten years’ jail time.

Mercy Killing or Murder: The Tracy Latimer Story “explores the extreme positions taken during Robert Latimer’s trials and offers up voices that were seldom heard amid the dialogue around his case: those of people with physical and developmental disabilities, just like Tracy Latimer’s.” Redressing this absence, the play presents “some facts about the case that were not made public” and offers up the perspectives and viewpoints of people with disabilities. In doing so, the play draws on verbatim techniques, quoting from media coverage and trial transcripts for the Latimers, Judges, Lawyers, and Witnesses, whereas the lines and dialogues of the characters with disabilities are most often the actors’ own. The play’s setting emphasizes the polarity of perspectives between the general public and people with disabilities, as well as “experts” and “ordinary people,” and due to the thematic importance of the media, the piece also involves film, media, and digital projections. The text further suggests a trial-within-a-trial set-up in which the people/characters with disabilities function as a jury, and the audience is implicated in the process as well.

Characters:

While a gender breakdown is provided for the characters (based on the original production), there is a great deal of room to change things around, as with roles for people of colour and 2SLGBTQIA+ folks. Characters such as Judge, Lawyer, and General Public do not have specific cultural, ethnic, or gendered identities ascribed to them.

Roles include:
Persons with Disabilities (PWD) playing themselves
Tracy Latimer
Robert Latimer
Laura Latimer
Frollo
Esmerelda
Doctors
Wife
Husband
Mother
Narrator
Thinking Person
General Public
Crowd
Staff
Judge
Coroner
Host
Popcorn Seller
Nurse
Reporter
Witnesses
Lawyer
RCMP
Speakers 1 & 2
Gossipers 1, 2, 3 & 4

First Produced:

First produced by Stage Left Productions in December 2003.

Resources:

The play is published in the Canadian Theatre Review,“Theatre and the Question of Disability,” 122 (Spring 2005); 67 – 88, which can be accessed for free at a public or school library.

Performance rights may be acquired by emailing the playwright: michele@stage-left.org