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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Drunken Driver Guilty for Unborn Baby’s Death

(CN) - A man who killed his pregnant girlfriend while driving drunk was properly convicted of two counts of manslaughter, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled.

John William Harrison was speeding in his pickup truck with his girlfriend when the truck left the road, rolled down an embankment and landed upside-down in a ravine.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Harrison's blood-alcohol content exceeded the legal limit, and he was convicted of two manslaughter charges.

Harrison challenged his Laclede County conviction in the death of the unborn child, claiming the state did not prove the woman was pregnant. An obstetrician testified at trial that the girlfriend visited him 10 days before the accident and that she had been at least six weeks pregnant then.

The three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed Harrison's conviction last month, saying it was reasonable to "infer that she was still pregnant 10 days later."

Harrison also failed to show that the child's respiration could not have stopped when it never started under Uniform Definition of Death Act.

Missouri law declares that "human life begins at conception, and that unborn children, from conception until birth, have protectable interests in life, health and well-being," Judge Daniel Scott wrote for the panel.

The Legislature also amended the law to provide that an unborn child could be considered a victim of involuntary manslaughter, Scott noted.

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