June 2012 Archives

June 24, 2012

Massachusetts Court Reverses Woman's Murder Conviction in Death of Baby During Labor

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently considered a case where a Milford woman was charged with Murder when she gave birth without medical assistance that resulted in the death of the baby (the baby was later found in the trash).

In its decision, the Court refused to impose a duty upon women that they must seek medical intervention when undergoing unassisted childbirth. The court thereby affirms a person's protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment.

In this case, the Massachusetts woman realized she was pregnant after missing her period and then taking a home pregnancy test. She didn't tell anyone about the pregnancy and chose not to see a doctor. Approximately 6 months later, the woman believed she was experiencing a miscarriage and her water broke. After 5 minutes, the baby emerged from her body but was blue.

The woman told police she made repeated attempts to scoop out the baby's mouth and made rescue breaths, but the baby's color never changed and she did not notice the baby cry or move. After not being able to resuscitate the baby, she disposed of the baby in the trash. The police discovered the baby's body a few days later.

The Worcester District Attorney's Office ultimately charged the woman with Murder and, after trial, a jury convicted her. The Supreme Judicial Court however, reversed the conviction and ruled that prosecutor's failed to prove that the woman's decision not to seek medical help was the cause of the child's death. The Court distinguished this case from one where a woman intentionally foregoes medical assistance with the intent to kill her fetus; or where a woman undergoes unassisted childbirth after she was told doing so could jeopardize the baby's life.

Essentially, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that someone can be subject to criminal liability if a viable fetus is intentionally killed, but this was not the case. In this case, the Court ruled that there was no evidence that the woman had any intention of killing her own fetus simply because she elected to not have medical treatment.

See court's full opinion at Commonwealth v. Allissa Pugh.

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June 21, 2012

Man's DNA Leads to Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges After 8 Years

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office recently indicted a man on Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges for an alleged sexual assault that occurred on the MBTA's Green Line in 2004.

According to prosecutors, the man was riding on the MBTA's B Line and allegedly positioned himself behind a female rider and began to inappropriately touch himself. When the woman left the train, she noticed 'stains' on her purse and pants. MBTA Police seized the purse at the time and, working with the Boston Police Department, were allegedly able to extract DNA from the purse and create a genetic profile. That genetic profile was entered into the CODIS database that triggered a purported match of this defendant in 2011.

The man was charged with the Massachusetts Sex Crime of Indecent Assault & Battery on a Person Over 14, which carries a potential penalty of 2.5 years in the House of Corrections; or a state prison sentence of no more than 5 years.

Like many sex crimes, a conviction for this offense would render the person subject to Massachusetts Sex Offender Registration; will require him to submit a DNA sample to the state's DNA database. Additionally, depending on the persons criminal history, he may also be subject to a term of community parole supervision for life.

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