2 September 2010
In the past two months, I've had to sit in on two court cases that touched a raw nerve. Is there anything worse than a parent who kills their children? Is there any possible reason, any particular set of circumstances that make it nearly ok? Of course not. If gut feelings were enough to commit, there would have been no retrial.
Robert Farquharson's trial has come and gone, as has his retrial. We wait for Justice Lex Lasry to return from vacation to learn the fate of Farquharson, though I assume he wont be going anywhere, anytime soon.
Donna Fitchett was like any other housewife. She had two children, a job as a nurse, and a husband. Like so many couples in modern Australia, their marriage was failing.
We may never know why she killed her two sons, Matthew and Thomas. We will never understand why she believed she was carrying out the "greatest act of all" by drugging them, strangling and suffocating them - just to make sure they weren't left behind when she attempted to take her own life. Having said that, Justice Curtain said during sentencing that Fitchett had no real interest in killing herself.
Paramedics who treated her that Tuesday night found her wounds to be superficial.
Here's an exert from Justice Curtain's sentence: "I accept that you were a loving mother to Thomas and Matthew, and I accept also that you were depressed at the time you killed your sons. Nonetheless, you knew what you were doing, you contemplated it, planned it and wrote about it before you did it, and then, when the boys did not succumb to the cocktails of drugs that you had given them, in respect of Thomas you strangled him, and Matthew, you suffocated him and, consistently with the jury's verdict, you knew that what you were doing was wrong."
If only the sentence could be based on those actions alone. But this is the modern, complicated law.
There was one part of Justice Curtain's sentence that stood out.
"I accept that your depression was causally linked to your offending conduct and that you were mild to moderately depressed at the time of the killings."
But further on, she says this:
"In sentencing you, I take into account, as I have previously addressed, the depression you suffered at the time of the killings and the significant depressive illness you now suffer." Let me get that straight. Donna Fitchett suffered mild to moderate depression from the knowledge that she killed her own children. She has since tried to take her own life several times. But does this mean her sentence was reduced from a possible life sentence because of the depression she suffers as a result of the murders she committed?
It was put to the court that the entire retrial, which was brought by Fitchett's own lawyers, may have resulted in her increased anxiety.
Mr Fitchett's words outside the Supreme Court, in many ways, said more than the Judge's.
"Having been through the ordeal twice, seeking what I thought was justice for my boys after the first one and going through the appeal process, it being an absolute nightmare, a horrendous time in my life.''
‘‘Thomas and Matthew deserve justice. The sentence has been extended from the first one. Whilst in my mind it is nowhere near enough, life by two is the only thing that would satisfy me."
But which part of the Sentencing Act cares about David Fitchett? I bet he's gone through more than mild to moderate depression.
Donna Fitchett was sentenced to 27 years, with a minimum of 18.
But she herself has served countless life sentences on others. Firstly on her two boys, and then on her ex-husband.
Let's hope Donna Fitchett completes her sentence.
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