The Court of Appeals has ruled that a Long Island woman should not have been convicted of second degree manslaughter in the death of her 6-day-old baby from in utero injuries sustained in a car accident that she caused.
In a 5-1 decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Legislature did not intend to hold a pregnant woman criminally responsible for conduct "with respect to themselves and their unborn fetuses unless such conduct is done intentionally."
The Court of Appeals further reasoned that if the Legislature had intended to do so, they could have made their intent clear.
In May of 2008 the defendant-appellant was alleged to have been driving while intoxicated while being 34 weeks pregnant. Authorities allege that the defendant's vehicle crossed over into oncoming traffic and smashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. The occupants in the other car were killed, and the in utero baby suffered injuries that required an immediate cesarean section. The baby died six days later from organ failure. The defendant was convicted of second degree manslaughter for the death of the baby and received a sentence of 3 to 9 years for the class C felony.
Justice Eugene Fahey, writing in dissent, argued that the majority has reached a position where a 6-day-old baby is not considered a person under the homicide and manslaughter statutes.
The decision by the Court of Appeals reversed a decision from the Appellate Division 2nd Department upholding of the conviction.
The case is People v. Jorgensen, No. 179, NYLJ 1202740469239, at *1 (Ct. of App., Decided October 22, 2015)