Texas Criminal Court Upholds Conviction Under Unborn Victims Law
by Steven Ertelt
November 22, 2007
Austin, TX (LifeNews.com) — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously upheld a double murder conviction of a man who killed a pregnant women and her unborn child. The decision in the case further validates the constitutional nature of the state’s unborn victims law, which pro-life advocates fought for to give justice to women and unborn children.
The state’s Prenatal Protection Act authorizes prosecutors to charge attackers with two crimes instead of one when both mother and baby are attacked and killed or injured.
In this latest case, Terence Chadwick Lawrence dated Antwonyia Smith and another woman during the summer of 2004. Upon learning that Smith was pregnant with his child, he told the other girlfriend that he would "take care of" the problem.
He then shot Smith three times with a shotgun, causing her death and the death of her unborn baby, who was about five weeks along at the time.
Lawrence appealed the conviction to the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas and finally to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which upheld the conviction in the case of Lawrence v. Texas.
"The Supreme Court has emphasized that states may protect human life not only once the fetus has reached viability but ’from the outset of the pregnancy,’" the court said. "The Legislature is free to protect the lives of those whom it considers to be human beings."
Attorneys for Lawrence claimed he shouldn’t be prosecuted for killing the woman’s baby because the unborn child wasn’t viable, but the court rejected that argument.
"The ’compelling state interest’ test, along with the accompanying ’viability’ threshold, has no application to a statute that prohibits a third party from causing the death of the woman’s unborn child against her will," Presiding Judge Sharon Keller wrote.
Joe Pojman, the director of Texas Alliance for Life, told LifeNews.com he is "very pleased" with the court’s ruling.
"The highest criminal court in Texas has recognized that an unborn child is an individual person worthy of protection from murder and assault the same as any other person already born," he said. "According to the criminal laws of Texas, an unborn child is a baby."
Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law in 2003 after the Texas legislature approved the bill with the support of TAL and other pro-life organizations in Texas.
Abortion advocates, including NARAL’s Texas affiliate and Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, objected to the measure protecting pregnant women and their unborn children.
The law has come into play in two other cases in the Texas.
In May, 26-year-old J.T. Nutt was charged with manslaughter in a case revolving around his alleged assault of his pregnant girlfriend and the death of her unborn child.
According to the indictment, Nutt hit and kicked the unnamed 24 year-old female victim and then stomped on her chest and back in an apparent attempt to cause the death of the baby.
The unborn child was six weeks old at the time and Nutt is alleged to be the father of the baby.
Prior to that, the Texas Ninth Court of Appeals upheld the law in a case concerning a double capital murder conviction involving a man who killed his unborn twin sons.
Beverly Nuckols, M.D., a member of TAL’s board of directors and a former member of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women, also applauded the decision.
"We hope that the publicity from this and other convictions will help protect pregnant women and their unborn children from assault and murder. This decision gives mothers a lot to be thankful for," she told LifeNews.com.
Related web sites:
Texas Alliance for Life – https://www.texasallianceforlife.org