REGINA COU­PLE AP­PEALS

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When is child ne­glect mur­der and how does moral blame dif­fer from le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity?Those were among the thorny is­sues ar­gued Tues­day be­fore the prov­ince’s top court in ap­peals for a Regina cou­ple con­victed in the death of one child and harm suf­fered by an­other.From her prison in B.C. and his in Al­berta, Tammy and Kevin Go­forth watched via video link as their lawyers urged the Saskatchewan Court of Ap­peal to al­ter the cou­ple’s sen­tences and con­vic­tions.High school sweet­hearts who were mar­ried 23 years be­fore they went to prison nearly three years ago, the Go­forths will have to wait to learn if their lawyers suc­ceeded. Af­ter lis­ten­ing to three hours of le­gal ar­gu­ments, sup­ple­ment­ing writ­ten doc­u­ments, Jus­tices Neal Cald­well, Robert Leurer, and Brian Bar­ring­ton-foote re­served de­ci­sion.On Feb. 6, 2016, a jury found Tammy Lynn Go­forth, now 42, guilty of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and Kevin Eric Go­forth, now 43, guilty of man­slaugh­ter in the death of a four-year-old girl. Both were also con­victed of un­law­fully caus­ing bod­ily harm to that vic­tim’s two-year-old sis­ter.Tammy was given a manda­tory life sen­tence with el­i­gi­bil­ity to seek pa­role set at 17 years, and con­cur­rent time on the bod­ily harm charge. Mean­while, Court of Queen’s Bench Jus­tice Ellen Gunn sen­tenced Kevin to 15 years in prison, but with credit for his pre­trial cus­tody and “house ar­rest” while on bail, the term was re­duced to 14 years.“The course of con­duct of the Go­forths to­wards these two innocent chil­dren is de­plorable and un­ex­plain­able,” Gunn said at the time of sen­tenc­ing in March 2016.The girls were in the Go­forths’ home only nine months, af­ter So­cial Ser­vices placed the girls there un­der a per­son of suf­fi­cient in­ter­est (PSI) ar­range­ment in Novem­ber 2011. A PSI is sim­i­lar to a fos­ter care ar­range­ment, ex­cept PSIS usu­ally have some fa­mil­ial re­la­tion­ship to the child in care.On July 31, 2012, the Go­forths took the se­verely ema­ci­ated fouryear-old to hos­pi­tal.Un­re­spon­sive on ar­rival, she was taken off life sup­port two days later af­ter heart fail­ure re­sulted in brain death.Po­lice and cri­sis work­ers found the younger sis­ter and brought her to hos­pi­tal on Aug. 1, 2012. Like her sis­ter, she too was mal­nour­ished, de­hy­drated and bruised but sur­vived with treat­ment.Gunn de­ter­mined the girls had been deprived of food for a min­i­mum of three to four weeks and flu­ids for at least a day. Med­i­cal help wasn’t sought de­spite the ob­vi­ous state of their health.Emo­tions ran high in the court­room three years ago dur­ing the ver­dicts and sen­tenc­ing, but the mood was far more sub­dued Tues­day in a court­room filled pri­mar­ily with le­gal stu­dents, jour­nal­ists and mem­bers of the Go­forths’ fam­ily.Rep­re­sent­ing Tammy, de­fence lawyer Brian Pf­ef­ferle de­scribed the jury’s de­ci­sion as “un­rea­son­able.” He ques­tioned how ju­rors could find Tammy guilty of mur­der, but Kevin guilty of the lesser of­fence of man­slaugh­ter.“At what point does child ne­glect be­come mur­der?” asked Pf­ef­ferle. He agreed the sis­ters suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant ne­glect — but ar­gued it fell short of an in­ten­tion to com­mit mur­der and sug­gested a man­slaugh­ter verdict in­stead.But Crown pros­e­cu­tor Bev Klatt said there was ev­i­dence Tammy had pri­mary care of the chil­dren, in­clud­ing meals, di­a­per­ing and dis­ci­pline — which re­flected the dif­fer­ing ver­dicts. For sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, the jury con­sid­ered if Tammy ap­pre­ci­ated that a fail­ure to pro­vide the nec­es­saries of life could re­sult in death, and was reck­less whether or not death oc­curred.“The ver­dicts can clearly be rec­on­ciled on a log­i­cal ba­sis,” she said.De­fence lawyer Kevin Hill, rep­re­sent­ing Kevin Go­forth, ar­gued Gunn misin­structed the jury. He stressed the dif­fer­ence be­tween moral and le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity, and ar­gued his client didn’t have the same le­gal duty of care as Tammy since he didn’t have a direct hand in the girls’ day-to-day care and was un­aware of the PSI.“Mr. Go­forth was on the side­lines,” Hill said. He also con­tended Kevin had a law­ful ex­cuse be­cause he trusted what his wife told him about the chil­dren get­ting fed.But Klatt coun­tered that Kevin resided in the home and couldn’t help but have seen the chil­dren wast­ing away, locked up in their room, and the bruis­ing. She added Kevin him­self tes­ti­fied that he ful­filled a parental role, even if didn’t change di­a­pers or pro­vide meals.While the de­fence lawyers ar­gued the sen­tences were “demon­stra­bly un­fit” and should be re­duced, Klatt said the sen­tences may be ex­cep­tional — but so was the crime.“This prov­ince has never seen a case like this,” she said.

Tammy Go­forth

Kevin Go­forth

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