In a shocking decision, a state appeals court has overturned the conviction of an Indiana woman convicted of feticide and neglect for aborting her viable unborn baby and then throwing him in a dumpster. In February 2015, a judge sentenced Purvi Patel to 20 years in prison for her crimes.
Her lawyers claimed that prosecutors failed to prove Patel knew she delivered a live baby or that she could have saved the infant if she had tried to get medical help for him, the report states.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller rejected that argument last year, saying, “The state was not required to prove that an attempt to obtain medical care would have saved the baby’s life, only that (Patel) placed her baby in appreciable danger. The jury…reasonably concluded that (Patel’s) neglect resulted in the baby’s death.”
After her attorneys appealed the 20-year sentence, today the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction. However, the court upheld a lower-level felony neglect of a dependent conviction, the Associated Press reported.
The Indiana Court of Appeals vacated both charges against Patel. Court records filed today state:
As for the feticide conviction, we hold that the legislature did not intend for the feticide statute to apply to illegal abortions or to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions. Therefore, we vacate Patel’s feticide conviction.
As for the neglect conviction, we hold that the State presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Patel was subjectively aware that the baby was born alive and that she knowingly endangered the baby by failing to provide medical care, but that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the baby would not have died but for Patel’s failure to provide medical care. Therefore, we vacate Patel’s class A felony conviction and remand to the trial court with instructions to enter judgment of conviction for class D felony neglect of a dependent and resentence her accordingly.
The case began on July 13, 2013 when Patel went to the emergency room at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, a South Bend police officer said, according to a court affidavit released to WSBT. Doctors there believed she had recently delivered a child.
The investigator said Patel denied giving birth. She was then taken to the maternity floor for further diagnosis and treatment. The officer said Patel eventually told medical staff she had delivered a baby in her Granger, Indiana home and that she did not see the child breathing or moving and believed it was dead. Patel then told doctors she put the baby’s body in a bag and placed the baby in a trash bin behind the Super Target in Mishawaka.
Patel allegedly told doctors she was roughly two months along and had a miscarriage. But upon further examination doctors determined that Patel was probably 25-28 weeks into her pregnancy.
Fearing for the child, the affidavit says that an emergency room doctor drove to the Super Target and started searching the Dumpsters. He called St. Joseph County police, who joined in the search. Officers then found the newborn’s body in a trash bin behind Moe’s Southwest Grill.
Patel’s case has drawn national media attention. Ignoring the fact that Patel took her own child’s life, abortion advocates have decried the sentence and Patel’s prosecution.