Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Woman's Conviction for Death of Fetus Born Alive Overturned: People v. Jorgensen

A woman at fault in a vehicular accident was convicted of second-degree manslaughter for the death of her baby.  The baby, still in utero at the time of the crash, was subsequently born and died from the injuries it sustained in the accident.  In this case of first impression, the New York Court of Appeals reversed the conviction.  The court reasoned that the legislature did not intend the homicide statute to include a pregnant woman criminally responsible for reckless conduct toward her fetus.  Judge Eugene Pigott Jr., author of the majority opinion, remarked that the court's decision will create a "perverse incentive" if a woman in similar circumstances decides to forgo a cesarian section to avoid being prosecuted for manslaughter in the event the newborn died.  The district attorney is now calling on the legislature to clarify the criminal liability of a pregnant woman where the fetus is born alive but dies from injuries it sustained before birth.

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