by Steven Ertelt
May 15, 2007
Waco, TX (LifeNews.com) — A Texas man has been charged with manslaughter in a case revolving around his alleged assault of his pregnant girlfriend and the death of her unborn child. The case involves a 2003 unborn victims law pro-life groups pressed for to hold criminals accountable when they kill or injure a baby before birth.
J.T. Nutt, 26, was arrested in connection with the March assault and originally charged with the lesser crime of family violence.
But on Monday, a Falls County grand jury increased the charge to manslaughter after learning that the attacked resulted in the death of the unborn child.
That’s because the state’s Prenatal Protection Act authorizes prosecutors to charge attackers with two crimes instead of one when both mother and baby are attacked.
Under a law signed June 20, 2003, and effective September 1, 2003, the protections of the entire criminal code extend to "an unborn child at every stage of gestation from fertilization until birth."
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.
The miscarriage followed soon after the attack, Falls County District Attorney Jody Gilliam told the Waco Tribune.
Nutt has remained in jail since his arrest and this is the second time he has been in court on assault-related charges. His attorney, Ron Butler of Marlin, suspected the charge would be increased because the baby died one day after the attack.
Gillam told the newspaper she may try to pursue a second-degree felony manslaughter charge instead of murder because she’s trying to determine whether Nutt knew the woman was pregnant at the time of the attack.
She also said she had no problem using the unborn victims law even though it has only been on the books for three years.
“I’m just going with the law,” Gilliam said. “Whether it’s new or old doesn’t concern me. I’m just going with what’s on the books.”
However, this would be the first time the law has been used to charge a criminal and it was upheld by a state appeals court in January as constitutional.
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.
Attorneys for 21 year-old Gerardo Flores claimed the law was unconstitutional because it applied throughout pregnancy in protecting mother and child.
In May 2004, then 16-year-old Erica Basoria asked Flores to step on her stomach because she didn’t want to give birth to the twins. Basoria has told authorities she had been trying to kill her unborn children for weeks before Flores attacked them.
“When I was four months pregnant, I began to show, and at that time I decided that I should have gotten an abortion,” Basoria said in an affidavit.
Authorities say Basoria and Flores had been dating more than a year when she became pregnant in January 2004. Flores told the Associated Press that Basoria had difficulties with her family and lacked support for her pregnancy.
Flores was convicted of killing the babies and received two concurrent life sentences that won’t let him be eligible for parole until 40 years from now. However, his lawyer, Ryan Deaton of Lufkin, argued the unborn victims law used to prosecute him was unconstitutional.