Appeals Court: Death of fetus is death of a human being

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today upheld the 40-year prison term of a man who paid another person a few hundred dollars to punch a pregnant woman in the stomach because he didn’t want to pay child support.

Dameon Gaston said his second-degree murder conviction was invalid because he intended to kill a fetus, not a human being. The six-month-old fetus was delivered by C-section after the mother was punched in the stomach in 2007, but she died less than two weeks later.

Under Minnesota law, a person is guilty of intentional second-degree murder if he or she ’causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another.’”

But in 1986, the Minnesota Legislature enacted homicide statutes that criminalized the unlawful killing of an unborn child after the state Supreme Court ruled Minnesota’s vehicle homicide laws do not consider a fetus to be a human being.

Gaston argued that he can’t be held responsible for killing the child once she was born alive because he “did not intend to kill a human being; rather he intended to kill an unborn child,” which would be attempted murder.

“This was no attempt,” the Court ruled today. Gaston’s actions “resulted in the death of a human being.”

It said Gaston’s “intent was to cause injuries to (the fetus) that would result in her death in utero, but the injuries instead resulted in (the baby’s) death only after she was born alive. This variation is too slight for the law to shrink from imposing criminal liability for the intentional killing of a human being,” the Court said.

(Here is the full opinion)

  • Kelly

    We tell people that it’s not a baby until it’s born but we call it murder if you harm a fetus. Then does having an abortion murder the fetus ? Is the Mother then guilty of murder or is it the Doctor ?

    It’s getting harder to understand..

  • JStrander

    I always felt that intent was the important thing in either case. As far as biological functionality a fetus doesn’t necessarily equate to what you might consider fully human. On the other hand, if the mother intended to carry the baby to term it should be endowed with (most of) the same protections as any other individual.

    Or in other words: It’s a “baby” if the pregnant person says so.