Federal Unborn Victims Law Used for First Time to Prosecute Double Murder
by Steven Ertelt
December 31, 2008
Albuquerque, NM (LifeNews.com) — Members of Congress approved the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act in 2004 and a case out of New Mexico may be the first to involve a prosecution under the law. The law makes it so criminals are held accountable for killing both mother and child in an attack on the pregnant mother.
Previously, federal prosecutors were unable to charge the assailant with killing or injuring the unborn child — which failed to provide both victims with protection and adequate justice.
The New Mexico case involves Frederick Beach, 37, who is charged with the deaths of Verlinda Kinsel, 29, and her unborn child, who Beach allegedly fathered.
Beacher reportedly killed both Kinsel and her baby in September and he has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse charges and a charge of murder related to the baby.
U.S. Attorney Greg Fouratt told the Albuquerque Journal his office searched and had not found any other cases prosecuted under the federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
Some 35 states have similar laws on the books and most murders or assaults are prosecuted under those laws. The federal law is invoked when those acts take place within the context of a federal crime or in a federal jurisdiction such as a military base, national park, or, in this case, an Indian reservation.
Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for National Right to Life, says the federal law came into play in part because New Mexico is not one of the states to have state version of the law.
"This was a brutal crime that took the lives of two victims. If this crime had been prosecuted under New Mexico state law, a charge could be brought only for the harm done to one victim, the mother, because New Mexico does not yet have an unborn victims law," he explained.
Amy Sirignano, a defense attorney for Beach, said she would pursue all legal remedies to defend her client and that could include challenging the constitutionality of the law.
"We may be breaking ground on a new area of law," she told the newspaper. "We’re not sure where that will lead us."
Johnson said he would not be surprised to see a challenge to the federal law as unconstitutional in the face of Roe v. Wade. But, he said he expected it to be defeated as courts have defeated all other challenges to the state versions of the law.
"Especially since this is apparently the first time a person has been charged under the federal law, it is predictable that defense lawyers will challenge the constitutionality of the federal law, and will claim that it violates the Supreme Court’s abortion rulings," he told LifeNews.com.
"It is also predictable that such arguments will be rejected by the courts, just as the courts have consistently rejected such legal attacks on the fetal homicide laws that are in effect in 35 states," he added.
Congress approved the bill after national attention was paid to the deaths of Laci and Conner Peterson. The California mother and her eight-month-old unborn child were killed just before Christmas and their bodies were dumped in San Francisco Bay.
Scott Peterson, Laci’s husband, was convicted under California’s state version of the unborn victims bill of two counts of murder and is currently in prison pending an appeal in the case.
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