Friday, May 10, 2013

Aerial Castro's Hard Case

It's an old legal adage that, "hard cases make bad law."   What it means is that when law is made in response to monstrous crimes, the sort that truly shock the public conscience, it can often result in inappropriate and unintended consequences for ordinary or lesser crimes.   In some circumstances it can even create crimes where none previously existed.

Alleged kidnapper rapist Aerial Castro will apparently face capital punishment should he be convicted of five counts of murder.  The supposed murder was the killing of a fetus through beating one of his victims to induce miscarriage.  He is said to have done this five times.

If the prosecution prevails it will have established the offence of fetal homicide which would probably extend to manslaughter and murder of the unborn.   Criminal sanctions normally associated with offences against a person would possibly now apply to the fetus in similar circumstances.

Castro is a hard case.  He abducted three girls and held them captive and sexually abused them over a 10-year period.   That's pretty monstrous by any standard.   Then you cap that off with five, brutally induced miscarriages.

If a third party causes a murder by inducing the death of a fetus, how is that to be distinguished from a woman obtaining an abortion or the attending physician for that matter?   Even if we create an exception for a woman's choice, would she still not be a murderer in the eyes of society - just one who, by some technicality, isn't facing a death penalty?   That would not only wreak havoc on the woman and her physician but it could tear a deep rent in the social fabric.

Aerial Castro has inflicted extreme damage on three young women.  It remains to be seen whether Cleveland prosecutors will inflict even more damage - on society.

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