Purvi Patel: Indiana; Why her conviction (she becomes the first woman in the U.S. to be convicted of the crime of feticide) sets a dangerous legal precedent allowing a woman to be jailed for attempting to terminate her own pregnancy. And how the prosecution relied on a "pseudoscientific lung-float test" to secure the conviction. Chayu Babu; The Brooklyn Quarterly;
COMMENTARY: "The trials of Purvi Patel," by Chaya Babu, published by the Brooklyn Quarterly on May 1, 2015. (Chaya Babu is a Blog Editor for The Brooklyn Quarterly as well as a writer for India Abroad and
a number of other publications. Her work focuses on social issues and
culture, and you can check our her musings on brown, feministy, identity
politics atThe Fobby Snob.)
GIST: "Patel is the first woman in the U.S. to be convicted of the crime of feticide,
which sets a dangerous legal precedent allowing a woman to be jailed
for attempting to terminate her own pregnancy. That is a frankly
terrifying prospect. What makes this particular instance
even more troubling is how the case against Patel rests on dubious
evidence, notwithstanding the legal complexities of Indiana’s feticide law.
The methods by which the court determined that Patel had intended to
abort her fetus as well as to prove that she delivered a living child
are disturbing at best and amount to modern day witch hunt at worst. Lawrence Marshall, the Stanford Law Professor who will be taking on Patel’s case pro bono, says it cries out to be rectified. “There are issues here, there are
errors here that were committed, that in our view justify and compel
reversal,” he told the South Bend Tribune this week. “We will be
hopefully showing the appellate court that errors were committed in both
interpreting the law and how facts were allowed to be proven.”........ There are a slew of other sinister
circumstances to what Patel has been forced to go through. The autopsy
records show that her fetus was 23 to 24 weeks old, which Dr. Gunter
said is considered at the cusp of viability. If Patel had given birth to
a breathing baby, it’s likely that it was alive for just seconds, and
had she delivered at a hospital, she would have had the legal right to
decline resuscitative care. Moreover, the prosecution used the
pseudoscientific lung-float test, a practice from the 17th century meant
to measure oxygen levels in the respiratory system. Patel tried to
perform CPR on the fetus, therefore invalidating the archaic test before
it was even pursued. “The lung float test was disproven
over 100 years ago as an indicator for live birth,” said Gregory J.
Davis, assistant state medical examiner for Kentucky and a professor of
pathology and lab medicine at the University of Kentucky, said in a New York Times interview. “It’s just not valid.” The prosecution also stated that
Patel had cut her umbilical cord on her own as some sort of further
proof that she was in a state to have acted other than how she did after
her ordeal — although it’s unclear what the proper behavior is for a
mother who just suffered a pregnancy loss. Gunter’s testimony further
diminished the relevance of this detail, stating that umbilical cords at
her stage of pregnancy are not very strong on their own and could have
broken without intervention.........The St. Joseph Superior Court has ninety days to provide Patel’s
lawyers with transcripts of her trial. They would then have thirty more
days, with a possible additional thirty-day extension, to file a brief
of their case with the Court of Appeals. Still, it could be over a year
before the court decides whether the convictions should be overturned.
Until then, Patel is sits in the St. Joseph County Jail waiting to be
transported to an Indiana State Prison to begin serving twenty years
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case. I
have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses
several thousand posts. The search box is located near the bottom of
the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this
powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and
myself get more out of the site.
Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible
years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr.
Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of
Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic"
section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It
can be found at:
http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2013/12/the-charles-smith-award-presented-to_28.html I look forward to hearing from readers at:
My interest in forensic pathology began with my Toronto Star investigative reporting into once famed since disgraced former doctor Charles Smith. I began this Blog after retiring from the Star in 2006 in order to follow the aftermath into the independent Goudge inquiry into many of Smith's cases. I have now begun to focus on cases involving flawed forensic science no matter where they occur (the recent Amanda Knox prosecution in Italy, for example) and am fascinated by the interest in the Blog from people in countries throughout the world. In another development, my interest in "junk science" "pseudo-experts" and the miscarriages of justice they all too often cause has drawn me deeply into the on-going U.S. death penalty debate where so many troubling cases involve issues relating to DNA and other developments in the world of forensic science. For all of this I rely on my experience as a reporter at the Toronto Star, my work as a lawyer in Ontario's criminal courts, and my abhorrence of injustice. Please send cases and developments which may be of interest to this Blog to email@example.com. Read on! Harold Levy.