Middle Ground

Middle Ground on the Fetus/Child Question:

Today's story out of Texas strikes me as one of those things that is so sensible that it's shocking to see the government have anything to do with it. Surely it's the influence of the jury, plus the fact that we're talking about Texas.

A former youth pastor was sentenced to death Wednesday for killing a teenager and her fetus in what is believed to be the first such order in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state.

Adrian Estrada, 23, was convicted Friday of one count of capital murder for the death of Stephanie Sanchez and the fetus, of which he was the father.
The Texas law in question may be objectionable to many -- whether a fetus is a person is a metaphysical position, and therefore subjective, as Joseph and I have been discussing. Regardless of which, it allows them to address this particular crime:
Sanchez, 17, was three months pregnant Dec. 12, 2005, when her body was found in her family's home. She had been choked and stabbed 13 times. During the trial, DNA evidence was presented to show Estrada was the father.

Estrada, a former youth pastor for a church, admitted to the stabbing the day after the killings. Prosecutors also said he worked out at a gym and went shopping after the crime. He showed no emotion when his punishment was read.
It's hard to argue against the idea that a man who tries to get out of fatherhood by murdering his pregnant girlfriend ought to hang. Unless you're opposed to the death penalty itself -- personally, I think we ought to use it much more widely than we do -- this surely is a matter in which the penalty ought to apply.

I gather that the man here has been convicted of a single count of capital murder. As I understand it, capital murder requires that you commit murder while also committing a separate felony -- shooting a guy while robbing his store, for example. (This understanding arise from Georgia law, however; Texas readers, shout out of I've misread the situation re: Texas law.)

Thus, the reason the death penalty can apply here is because there are two separate crimes: killing the mother, and killing the child. That's one count of murder, and another, separate count of murder comitted while in the process of committing the first murder. That allows you to go to the death penalty, which is what is deserved.

Surely, whether you agree that a fetus is a child or not, we can all agree that this is the right result -- Quakers and other anti-death penalty theorists aside.

Of course, his defense attorney has a right to be heard too:
Estrada's attorney, Suzanne Kramer, had argued that her client made bad decisions.

"It that enough to execute him? Is that enough to kill him?" she asked the jury.
Yes, it is. Next case.

UPDATE: In the comments, Joe points out that I have confused "capital murder" with "felony murder." I regret the error, which I shall blame on insufficient coffee at the time of writing. :)

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