Former Utah Supreme Court Justice George W. Latimer, co-founder of one of Utah's largest law firms, died Wednesday May 2, 1990, at a Salt Lake nursing home at age 89.
One of Mr. Latimer's best-known cases during his long and varied legal career was his defense of William L. Calley Jr. when Calley was court-martialed for the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Mr. Latimer represented Calley from 1969 to 1974, appealing his case from the military courts to the civil courts until Calley was released because of constitutional violations in his military trial.Mr. Latimer served from 1946 to 1951 on the Utah Supreme Court.
The Republican attorney was then appointed by Democratic President Harry Truman as one of three original members of the U.S. Court of Military Appeals in Washington, D.C., a new military court of civilian jurists. During his term, he helped to make key interpretations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which had been adopted after World War II.
After his 10 years in Washington, Mr. Latimer returned to Salt Lake City in 1961 to resume his law practice and joined the firm of Parsons, Behle & Latimer. He became president of that firm in 1972. After his retirement in 1973, he remained "of counsel" until 1985.
He was appointed to the Utah Board of Pardons in 1965 and served there for 14 years, eventually becoming chairman. He presided over the hearings in which the board refused to commute the death sentence of Gary Gilmore, who was executed in 1977.
During Mr. Latimer's 14 years on the Board of Pardons, he recalled later in a Deseret News interview, he never voted to commute a death sentence. "I didn't think I should change the ruling of a judge and jury," he said.
Mr. Latimer devoted many years of service to the Utah National Guard. He was called to active duty before the start of World War II and served in the Pacific Theater, rising to the rank of colonel and becoming a member of the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He earned five battle stars, the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.
After the war, Mr. Latimer returned Utah and continued his work with the National Guard, eventually reaching the rank of brigadier general.
Mr. Latimer received numerous awards during his career, including the Order of the Coif in 1966, Utah State Bar Lawyer of the Year in 1977 and Military Citizen of the Year in 1982.
Mr. Latimer was born in Draper. He attended public schools in Utah and graduated from the University of Utah Law School in 1924.
Funeral services will be at noon Tuesday at Evans & Early Mortuary, 574 E. 100 South. Additional arrangements are pending.