FREDERICK – The case of a man accused of killing his pregnant wife in northern Colorado brings attention to the fact that Colorado does not have a law for charging someone with fetal homicide.
Chris Watts earlier in the week made public pleas on camera as search parties looked for his pregnant wife Shanann and his daughters, four year old Bella and three year old Celeste. Then on Wednesday he was arrested after he reportedly confessed to killing his family. He was taken in on suspicion of murder for his wife and daughters, but not for the death of the unborn baby.
Colorado is among a minority of states with no version of a fetal homicide law. There are 38 states with laws that fall into the category of fetal homicide, according the national conference of state legislatures. Colorado is among 12 without this kind of law.
It has been considered by lawmakers at the state capitol, but not passed.
“It raises some uncomfortable moral and legal questions,” said University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Political Science Professor, Josh Dunn. The debate Dunn refers to the topic of an unborn child. “This is all intertwined with the politics of abortion. You aren’t going to be able to get around that.” Dunn says compromise is always possible among lawmakers. With Colorado’s split majorities at the legislature it is not likely to happen any time soon.
In the 2015 case of Dynel Lane who cut the baby out of Michelle Wilkens the mother lived but the baby died. Lane was convicted of attempted murder on the mother and unlawful termination of a pregnancy.
There are other laws that can be used in cases when someone is pregnant. They give the option of applying what are called aggravating factors. They are a means of significantly increasing the penalties for assaulting or killing a mother who is pregnant.