Monday, October 28, 2013

Murder suspect uses pro-choice viability argument as defense

[Today's post by Sarah Terzo is part of our paid blogging program. Sarah is a pro-life atheist, a frequent contributor to Live Action News, and the force behind] 

Apple Valley, Minnesota prosecutors allege that Roger Holland killed his pregnant wife Marjorie and their 15-week-old unborn baby. Holland's lawyers are defending him using the argument that the murder of the baby was, in fact, an illegal abortion. They claim that the killing of the baby fits the criteria for abortion rather than murder.

At 15 weeks, the baby in this case would have had all the organs in place and fully developed feet and hands. However, over 450 legal abortions are performed between 13 and 15 weeks' gestation every day. Holland and his legal team are trying to exploit this inconsistency in the law that allows abortionists to kill unborn babies legally, but punishes non-medical-practitioners who kill these babies during the commission of a crime. Marsh Halberg, Holland's attorney, contends that the unborn babies have no inherent right to life. He says that rather than murder, Holland should be tried for performing an illegal abortion, which carries a much lighter sentence.

Halberg attempted to have the murder charge for the baby dismissed, saying "The exact conduct [Holland] is being accused of is chargeable under a separate, less severe statute… If there are different statutes that can be used to penalize criminal conduct, then you should use the statute that most accurately depicts the crime involved."

Halberg said of the unborn victim, "It's not a separate interest at this point, because it's not viable."

Halberg also uses as part of his argument the case of Donald Wickstrom, who was convicted of illegal abortion after he beat his pregnant girlfriend and caused a miscarriage. In Wickstrom's case, the mother survived the attack, but her 8-month-old baby died. Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, who is prosecuting Holland's case, moved to dismiss Halberg's argument on a technicality, saying that the laws were different when Wickstrom’s crime was committed. Backstrom said that the use of the "illegal abortion" defense was "offensive and legally unsupported."

If convicted of the death of Marjorie Holland, Roger Holland faces life in prison. The murder charge pertaining to the unborn baby would, therefore, not greatly affect the punishment that he is already facing. Even if his “abortion is not murder” strategy succeeds, it will not save him from life in prison if he is found guilty of the separate charge of murdering Marjorie Holland. Still, the use of this defense is appalling, and could have ramifications for future cases.


Jameson Graber said...

It's striking that they would even do this, considering it doesn't change the sentence outcome. Still, in terms of recent legal precedent, they're probably right. That's the crazy world we live in.

Drew Hymer said...

Legally speaking (but certainly not morally speaking) the difference between murder and abortion is the mother's agreement to the killing. Illegal abortion is an abortion committed outside the law (for example, by a non-"physician") on a woman who wants her baby dead. In this case, there is no indication that the mother wanted her baby dead, so it's clearly not an illegal abortion. It's murder.

Tyrone Walker said...

The baby either is or is not a human being. The mother wanting to keep it does not magically change its biology from non-human to human. This blog post is pointing the fact out that liberals cannot consistently defend the killing of an preborn child by another if it is not a person.

Clinton said...

Drew was speaking legally. Legally under the law, whether or not the baby enjoys the protections of the law is dependent on whether or not the mother wants to keep the child. This doesn't make any logical sense, but it's still the way the law looks at unborn humanity.