Friday, February 26, 2010

Peter Fonteece to be sentenced in May

An article published in the Thunder Bay Ontario Chronicle Journal is reporting that Peter Fonteece who pleaded guilty to criminal negligence in connection with his wife‘s suicide in a Thunder Bay hotel room is to be sentenced in May.

As you may remember, when the Fonteece case was first reported, media from across Canada were trying to turn this case into a reason to legalize assisted suicide in Canada. Now the case has ended with Fonteece pleading guilty to a lesser charge of criminal negligence.

Link to my previous blog comment about the Fonteece case:
http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2009/02/death-in-thunder-bay-fonteece-case.html

The important quote in this article is:
“Rather, the Crown‘s case is that Peter Fonteece did nothing when, in law, he was required to act.”

The court must, impose a sentence that takes into account the duty family members owe to one another, and shows that society “will not tolerate the inattention or disregard for another family member‘s life, even in circumstances as tragic as those in the life that Peter and Yanisa Fonteece had made for themselves.”

The article stated:
Superior Court Justice Helen Pierce heard sentencing submissions Wednesday from the Crown and defence, then adjourned the matter to May 13, saying she needed time to consider the case.

Crown lawyer David MacKenzie asked for nine months of incarceration, with 18 months of probation to follow. A 10-year weapons prohibition would be “mandatory” under the law given the nature of the offence, he said.

Defence counsel Gil Labine said time served, plus probation, was suitable.

Fonteece‘s 38-year-old wife Yanisa died in February 2009.

According to an agreed statement of facts read into the record in December, Yanisa, who was depressed and had harboured thoughts of suicide for a lengthy period dating back to before she met Fonteece, and Fonteece had left their Waterloo home and headed west in search of a better life.

She had lost her job just before Christmas, while Fonteece has a vision impairment that keeps him from working.

Having no prospects, and estranged families back home, they arrived in Thunder Bay Feb. 2, 2009.

But car trouble prevented them from going any further. The heater malfunctioned and they didn‘t have the money to repair it. Nor did they wish to continue driving without heat in February.

Yanisa rented a room at a hotel, and with her husband at her side committed suicide by ingesting 40-60 sleeping pills.

They had a pact that he wasn‘t to notify anyone, as she wanted to die in peace. Then, he would take his own life.

Fonteece tried no less than five times to kill himself, Labine told court. Having failed, he took it as a sign that he wasn‘t supposed to die.

On Feb. 6, he called 911 and informed the dispatcher that his wife was dead.

Labine told court Wednesday that Fonteece spent about 70 days in custody at Thunder Bay District Jail after his wife‘s death.

He underwent a psychiatric evaluation which revealed no mental health issues. Since his release, Labine said, Fonteece has been living at the John Howard Society in Thunder Bay under conditions, and he‘s not only “lived by the rules,” but has done a great deal of volunteer work for the agency. Labine called him a “poster boy” for the society.

In addition, Fonteece has no criminal record, nor were there any indications he posed any danger to anyone, Labine said.

“His character is that of a very gentle soul,” Labine told court, adding that his wife, too, was of such character.

The pair, he said, was simply trying to make their way through life, and had encountered difficulties which took their toll.

But, Labine said, under the law, Fonteece did commit a crime in allowing his wife‘s suicide to take place.

MacKenzie agreed.

“In rhetorical terms, Mr. Fonteece is not Dr. Kevorkian,” MacKenzie told court. “This is not a case where the Crown can establish that Peter Fonteece did anything either by way of physical act or encouragement or persuasion that led to his wife‘s demise.

“Rather, the Crown‘s case is that Peter Fonteece did nothing when, in law, he was required to act.”

The court must, MacKenzie said, impose a sentence that takes into account the duty family members owe to one another, and shows that society “will not tolerate the inattention or disregard for another family member‘s life, even in circumstances as tragic as those in the life that Peter and Yanisa Fonteece had made for themselves.”

Fonteece, when asked if he had anything to say, told court that his wife did not ask him to call for help or otherwise intervene as she died.


Link to the article in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal: http://www.chroniclejournal.com/stories_local.php?id=245964

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