Unborn Victims of Violence Act: Some Cases of Homicides of Unborn Children under Federal or Military Jurisdiction
May 8, 2003
Currently, an unborn child is not legally recognized as a crime victim in federal law, including military law. Here are some examples of cases in which unborn children were injured or killed during the commission of federal crimes, in which full justice could not be done because of this gap in the law. These cases, and many others like them, illustrate the need for enactment of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
The Testimony of Michael Lenz
On July 21, 1999, the U.S. House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee heard powerful emotional testimony from Michael Lenz of Oklahoma City. Mr. Lenz's wife, Carrie, and their unborn son were both killed in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Mr. Lenz testified that the afternoon before the bombing, he and his wife had ultrasound photos taken, and learned their baby was a boy. They immediately named him Michael James Lenz III. "We were so happy we even paid for extra ultrasound pictures to show off," Mr. Lenz said. "When we arrived home that evening, we called all of our friends and relatives to tell them the news. We didn't know it at the time, but that would be the last time Carrie spoke to the people she loved most." The next morning, Carrie Lenz left early for work to show the ultrasound photos to her co-workers at the Drug Enforcement Administration office in the Murrah Building. "At 9:03 that morning I was no longer an expecting father or husband," Mr. Lenz said. "At 28 years old, I was a widower." Mr. Lenz said that the official death total for the bombing was 168, but three unborn children were also killed, so "in my mind, 171 people lost their lives that day, and three daddies-to-be became widowers." Even if his son alone had been killed and his wife had survived, federal law should recognize that his son was a victim, Mr. Lenz said, asking, "Should we as people allow that act of violence to remain a victimless crime? No Michael the Third ever mentioned? I don't think that would be right."
Here are some other cases:
• Sgt. Timothy Ward, a soldier serving at the Helemano Military Reservation in Honolulu, was convicted in January 2000 of premeditated murder in the death of his wife, Bianca Ward, who was in the latter stages of pregnancy at the time of her death. Her unborn child did not survive. The cause of death was severe head trauma although there were also several puncture wounds. Ward was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 35 years of confinement. No charges were brought to the harm done to their unborn child.
• Ruth Croston was five months pregnant on April 21, 1998, when she was killed by her estranged husband, Reginald Anthony Falice, at a Charlotte, North Carolina intersection as she sat in her car. She and her unborn daughter died after being shot at least five times by Falice, who had been living in Atlanta. He was prosecuted in federal court for interstate domestic violence and using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. No charges were brought for the killing of the unborn baby girl.
• On September 12, 1996, at Wright-Patterson AFB, Airman Gregory Robbins assaulted his wife, Karlene, who was eight months pregnant with their daughter, Jasmine. He covered his fist with a t-shirt and repeatedly struck her in the face and abdomen. Due to the assault, Karlene's uterus ruptured and expelled Jasmine into the abdominal cavity and she died. The baby was not recognized as a victim under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Fortunately, the Air Force prosecutor was able to prosecute under the Ohio unborn victims law, which makes it a crime to kill an unborn child. Robbins pled guilty to assault and battery upon his pregnant wife and involuntary manslaughter for the death of Jasmine.
• On January 1, 1999, Deanna Mitts, who was seven months pregnant, returned home with her 3-year old daughter after celebrating New Year's with her parents. Shortly after entering her Connellsville, Pennsylvania, apartment, Mitts, her three- year-old daughter Kayla, and her unborn child were killed in an explosion from a bomb. Joseph Minerd, Mitts' ex-boyfriend and the father of the unborn child, was arrested for the murders of Deanna and Kayla, but he could not be charged for the harm done to the unborn child. Prosecutors said Minerd set the bomb because Mitts refused to obtain an abortion. Minerd was convicted under a federal anti- bombing law and sentenced to life in prison.
• Monica Smith was a secretary who was pregnant when she was killed in the World Trade Center bombing in New York on February 26, 1993. Her unborn child was not among the six listed victims of the explosion.
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