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Monday, October 05, 2015

Ind. Courts - "Granger woman's lawyers submit arguments in neglect, feticide appeal"

Christian Sheckler of the South Bend Tribune has a long story on the Purvi Patel appeal. (Earlier ILB posts, and brief, here.) Some quotes:

Purvi Patel's lawyers Friday laid out their case asking the Indiana Court of Appeals to overturn the 35-year-old Granger woman's conviction on child neglect and feticide charges, arguing that prosecutors relied on faulty evidence and an "absurd" use of the state's feticide law.

Law professors Lawrence Marshall, of Stanford Law School, and Joel Schumm, of Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law, filed the brief on behalf of Patel, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted earlier this year.

Patel's conviction drew national media coverage and sparked outrage among some people who feared the state's feticide law — originally billed as protection against violent attacks on pregnant women — could increasingly be used to prosecute women who have legally questionable abortions.

In the brief, Patel's lawyers acknowledged that the case raised important questions as a potential "bellwether" for people on both sides of the abortion debate, but they focused instead on the argument that prosecutors violated "well-accepted neutral principles of law" in securing Patel's conviction.

In their arguments against the child neglect conviction, Marshall and Schumm wrote that prosecutors failed to prove that Patel knew she had delivered a live baby, that she could have done anything to save the infant, or that her inaction caused the baby's death.

Even if Patel had called 911 immediately, there was no evidence the baby could have survived even a short trip to the hospital, the lawyers wrote, citing testimony by forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph Prahlow, who testified the infant likely would have bled out within a minute.

"Failure to take a futile act does not constitute endangerment," Marshall and Schumm wrote in the brief. * * *

As for the feticide conviction, Marshall and Schumm argued that Indiana's feticide law was never intended to prosecute women who illegally have an abortion. They noted the state already has an unlawful abortion statute that provides penalties for people who provide abortions outside the legal guidelines, though they added that law has never permitted the prosecution of women for their own abortions.

The St. Joseph County prosecutors' interpretation of the law, Patel's attorneys wrote, could allow the state to bring feticide charges against every woman who violates Indiana's abortion laws, knowingly or not, a situation they described as "absurdity."

They also wrote that if, as prosecutors argued, Patel's baby was born alive, she cannot have committed feticide because to "terminate" a pregnancy implies the death of a fetus.

"No husband would ever telephone a relative from the delivery room where his wife was delivering a healthy baby and say, 'Good news, Susan is in the delivery room terminating her pregnancy,'" Marshall and Schumm wrote.

In February, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter told Slate that Patel committed feticide because she intended to terminate her pregnancy, killing the fetus.

According to Indiana code, "a person who knowingly or intentionally terminates a human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus commits feticide."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 5, 2015 06:22 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts