Indiana Court of Appeals Overturns Feticide Conviction against Purvi Patel

By Dave Andrusko

Purvi Patel (Photo courtesy St. Joseph Jail)

Purvi Patel (Photo courtesy St. Joseph Jail)

A three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals today vacated the charge of feticide against Purvi Patel and reduced her neglect of a dependent conviction from a class A felony to a class D felony.

Patel will be resentenced for the far less serious charge by Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley, the same judge who in March 2015 sentenced Patel to 20 years in prison a month after a jury found her guilty.

Prosecutors said she took abortifacient drugs to induce an abortion and failed to get medical help for the 25-30-week-old baby when he was born alive. Following a trial that took place over six days and which 20 witnesses offered testimony, Patel was convicted of feticide and child neglect.

But the appeals court panel decided otherwise, according to the Associated Press and The Guardian. “The appeals court ruled that the state Legislature didn’t intend for the [2009] feticide law ‘to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions,’” according to the AP’s Tom Davies.

The ruling “was not a uniform victory for Patel,” according to Molly Redden of the Guardian. “The court held that the state had mounted sufficient evidence to show Patel knew the infant was born alive [but also] agreed with Patel that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the infant could have survived.”

At trial, the prosecution presented testimony from a variety of sources. Dr. Kelly McGuire, an obstetrician, testified he was called in to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center on July 13, 2013, to give a second opinion on Patel. Patel had been admitted to the labor and delivery unit bleeding with a protruding umbilical cord.

“This was not a simple miscarriage,” he testified. ”I drew a conclusion that there should have been a baby at the end of the umbilical cord.”

WNDU’s Mark Peterson reported that Dr. McGuire “became convinced that Patel had given birth to a baby who was out there somewhere and in need of help.”

Peterson added, “Dr. McGuire testified that, given the size of Patel’s umbilical cord and the position of her placenta, he fully expected to find a live baby.”

WSBT’s Kelli Stopczynski reported that McGuire told jurors that he learned that Patel had

told another doctor she’d put the baby in a dumpster behind Super Target in Mishawaka.

Then, McGuire rushed there in his own car.

“I thought time was of the essence and if they found the baby then potentially I could help with the resuscitation if needed,” he testified.

“Did you believe this baby could still be alive?” asked deputy prosecuting attorney Mark Roule.

“Yes,” McGuire replied.

Prosecutors told the jury that in July 2013 Patel took abortifacients purchased online from overseas and then deposited the body of her dead 25-30 week-old baby into a dumpster in back of Moe’s Southwest Grill.

The defense argued, contrary to testimony from prosecution witnesses, that Patel’s baby boy was not viable and was already dead when born; that there was no physical evidence she’d actually taken the abortifacients; and that Patel tried to revive the baby, attributing her failure to call 911 to shock.

But in summarizing and quoting from the prosecution’s closing argument. WSBT’s Stopczynski wrote

The state told jurors Patel’s intent was to give herself an illegal abortion, and that’s what prosecutors say she did.

“This whole production is about a little boy…” said Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roule. “He wasn’t expected, he wasn’t wanted. He lived a brief and horrible life. What happened to him was very, very wrong.”

Roule reminded jurors about details they’ve already heard — that the baby was born on the bathroom floor at Patel’s home. She wrapped him in plastic bags and put him in a dumpster behind Moe’s Southwest Grill in Mishawaka – a restaurant her family owns.

Then, when her pain and bleeding wouldn’t stop, Patel went to the emergency room.

“She continued to lie to doctors and nurses…she tried to keep secret the fact that she’d been responsible for another life and done nothing,” Roule said.

Then, six months of text messages between Purvi Patel and her best friend about her irregular period, a positive pregnancy test in June and the abortion pills she ordered online and took, according to those texts.

According to WNDU

Patel’s attitude was perhaps captured in a text to a friend that read, “Just lost the baby. I’m going to clean up my bathroom floor and then go to Moe’s.”