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Thursday, December 30, 2004

CrimProf Sherry Colb's Commentary on Murdering a Woman to Steal her Fetus

ColbCrimProf and Findlaw columnist Sherry Colb of Rutgers Law School in Newark published a commentary on the two-week old case out of Kansas in which Lisa Montgomery reportedly cut open a pregnant woman's womb and stole her baby, killing the woman in the process.  Colb contrasts Montgomery's culpability to the culpability of an attacker who incidentally kills a fetus and an attacker who beats a pregnant woman with the intention of injuring her fetus.

Colb writes: "Unlike the unborn child of Laci Peterson, another pregnant murder victim whose case has lately been in the news, Bobbie Jo Stinnett's baby survived. In fact, the woman charged with murdering Stinnett intended for the baby to survive and become her own child. Shortly after the kidnapping, Montgomery was showing off the newborn as hers at a Kansas restaurant. Yet this fact does not seem to mitigate our perception of the severity of her crime. Indeed, it appears only to make it worse. Why?...

Montgomery chose Stinnett because she was pregnant with a child that Montgomery wanted to take. The killer killed, in other words, purely to gain access to the child who was living inside the victim's body.

Montgomery's actions thus represent the extreme of regarding another person as a mere means of serving one's own interests. Montgomery treated her victim as a vessel carrying loot that she could plunder. Not simply a means to the killer's own objectives, the victim here became a container. The killing was accordingly an absolute assault on Stinnett's personhood."  Colb continues by comparing this case to Keeler v Superior Court, a California Supreme Court case involving a man who beat his pregnant ex-wife's abdomen with the intention of killing the fetus inside her.   For Colb's full commentary, click here. [Mark Godsey]

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