Robert Anthony Davis, Who Murdered a Fetus
A San Diego court convicted 21-year-old Robert Anthony Davis of first-degree
murder when he shot a pregnant woman. The woman survived, but the fetus
Such a conviction results from the fact that the fetus died as a result of an action--whether or not intentional--which occurred during the commission of a felony. In this case, Davis was holding up a convenience store when he shot the clerk. Long standing legal precedent makes an unintentional homicide murder under such circumstances. For years courts have returned murder convictions in these cases even if the victim were killed accidentally. For example, if a robber discharges a gun during a hold-up and the bullet goes through a wall an kills someone in an adjacent office, it may still be first degree murder.
I am certainly able to follow that reasoning and can be comfortable with those convictions. Society has decided that if you are going to pick up a gun and commit a felony, you need to be ready to ride the rap to its ultimate conclusion.
However, the irony is not that the San Diego jury called the homicide a murder, but that it called the shooting a homicide. For a homicide to occur, a person had to be killed. But America in the 1990's is does not consider a fetus to be a human being. The clerk in this case could have aborted the fetus at will without arousing the most attentive juror.
Either a fetus is a human being and killing it is always homicide (but perhaps not murder depending on the circumstances) or a fetus is not a human being and Davis should have been convicted of assault on the clerk (who undeniably is human).
We must either convict those who abort fetuses of homicide or not. We cannot arbitrarily convict some who abort fetuses and not others. This irrationality makes me cranky.
*"Death of Fetus Results in Murder Conviction," Boise Statesman (12 December, 1991)