By Dave Andrusko
In a case so vicious the presiding judge said, “I can’t remember when I’ve been so appalled at a defendant’s behavior of what – what cruelty, what total disregard for human life and decency there was in this particular incident,” the Michigan Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the plaintiff’s assertion an unborn child could not be considered a second victim.
In 2014, Samuel Demetrious Ambrose punched his disabled, pregnant girlfriend and “held her head underwater after dumping her out of a wheelchair and into a ditch in southern Allegan County,” according to WZZM-13.
“Allegan County Circuit Court Judge Kevin W. Cronin sentenced Ambrose to a minimum of four years in prison for the May 2014 assault and witness intimidation. His sentence was lengthened because the judge counted the woman’s unborn child as a second victim,” reported John Hogan.
Ambrose appealed, arguing the unborn child should not be counted as a second victim because the child is not a “person.”
The Court of Appeals disagreed in a decision released Wednesday. Hogan wrote
“We conclude the trial court did not err in counting the fetus as a ‘victim’ when fashioning a sentence,’’ justices wrote.
The appeals court noted there are already laws making it a felony to cause a miscarriage or stillbirth through criminal conduct.
“The facts of this case are reprehensible, leaving no doubt that (Ambrose) placed the mother and her fetus in both danger of death and physical injury,’’ Appeals Court Judge Peter D. O’Connell wrote. “The trial court’s departure was minimal and its reason for departure were extensive.’’
Right to Life of Michigan lauded the decision and pointed out the significance of a change in state law:
Michigan updated protections for unborn children by passing the Prenatal Protection Act in 1999. Previously the child had to be born alive and then die in order to be counted as a victim of a crime committed while the child was in the womb. The born-alive rule was necessary as a matter of evidence before the advent of ultrasound, because the only way to know a child in the womb was alive at any point (and harmed by the criminal action) was the mother reporting her experience of the baby moving. Thanks to modern medicine, documenting the life of the child in the womb is easy and undeniable.