Baby in South Carolina is the second victim of a crime — somebody explain the law to the law professor

By Holly Gatling, Executive director,South Carolina Citizens for Life

Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life

In the small town of Chester, South Carolina, a tiny baby boy was buried Tuesday.  The obituary in the local newspaper states Infant Tavaris Jordan “passed away Thursday, April 26, 2012.” 

What the obituary does not say is that Baby Tavaris was unborn when his mother was violently attacked last week. According to the Rock Hill Herald, “Brittney Jordan, 21, was several months pregnant when she was stabbed in the neck, police say.” The accused assailant, Aris Nichols, is in jail and Ms. Jordan is hospitalized.

In another section of the newspaper, the Herald, the details of Tavaris’s death are reported, along with numerous comments about whether Nichols, 39, will be charged in connection with the unborn baby’s death.  What is shocking about the news report is how flatly inaccurate it is.  

The article attributes to a criminal law “expert” and professor at the University of South Carolina law school, an assertion that how far along Jordan was in her pregnancy and other medical factors will be crucial to determining what charges are brought.  Prosecutors could argue the fetus was “viable to be born and survive” after less than a complete term and could bring charges of manslaughter to murder, the professor is reported to have said.

But state Representative Greg Delleney (R-Chester) points out that the information is incorrect.   South Carolina’s “Unborn Victims of Violence Act makes an unborn child a victim of a violent crime regardless of the circumstances of the pregnancy or anything else and regardless of whether the perpetrator intended to cause the death of the unborn child,” Delleney said Tuesday.  

Delleney, one of the strongest supporters of South Carolina’s six-year-old Unborn Victims of Violence Act, emphasized that under the law, “the unborn child is a victim the same as the mother. If the unborn child is killed, the defendant should be charged with homicide.” 

The law, he says, “provides for a separate offense against the unborn child.  The whole purpose of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act is to protect the unborn child from violent crime the same as any other person and to punish the perpetration of a violent crime against an unborn child the same as against any other person.”

According to Dys, “The police report states that officers found Brittney Jordan lying on a bed bleeding from her face and head and Nichols standing in the room.” Chester Police Chief Andre Williams did tell the Herald that more charges are expected in the death of the unborn child.

The South Carolina unborn victims (fetal homicide) law is found in Title 16, Chapter 3, Section 16-3-1083, of the South Carolina statutory code.

Holly Gatling is a former newspaper reporter with 20 years experience covering crime.  She e-mailed a copy of the South Carolina Unborn Victims of Violence Act to the Rock Hill Herald, the two law professors quoted in the Herald article, and to the Chester Police Chief.

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