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Bill ups charges in fetal deaths
In cases of second-degree murder causing a miscarriage or stillbirth, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the bill originally allowed for a separate prosecution for the death of the unborn child older than eight weeks.
"The amendment to HB1503 actually does very little. It does allow a judge to choose a harsher sentence. It is not required. In its current form, HB 1503 is not a fetal homicide law. It also does not apply if the mother lives," said Rideout.)
Her spokesman, Marc Goldberg, said, "The governor will continue to listen to all points of view as the measure moves through the legislative process."
In December, homicide prosecutors charged Sunapee resident Robert Dellinger with two counts of manslaughter in a Dec. 7 collision on Interstate 89, which killed Vermont residents Amanda Murphy, 24, and Jason Timmons, 29.
In 2009, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled a fetus must be born alive and have an existence separate and independent of the mother for charges to be brought in its death. At that time, the court suggested that lawmakers clarify the relevant statutes with regard to the unborn.
Under the bill, a person found guilty of manslaughter that causes a miscarriage or stillbirth faces a maximum prison term of 60 years. A person found guilty of negligent homicide that causes a miscarriage or stillbirth faces a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
He said it is "no compromise. It gives the appearance of doing quite a bit but in reality it does not."
By passing the amendment, he said, the House was saying "there is no justice for your unborn child.
"Is that the legacy this Legislature wants to leave?
"By voting for this amendment, we would also be saying that it is not a crime to kill an wanted unborn child," he said. "New Hampshire families deserve more than second-rate justice."
He said it addresses the issue "without departing from our existing statutory scheme" and "doubles the penalties under the current statues."
But Rep. Shannon Chandley D-Amherst, favoring the amendment, called Rideout's proposal "misguided."
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