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DA: Colorado law prohibits murder charge in death of removed fetus

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DENVER -- A Longmont woman who allegedly cut a woman’s unborn child out of her now faces eight felony counts including attempted murder, but many are asking why Dynel Lane does not face a murder charge for the death of baby Aurora.

Stan Garnett, the Boulder County District Attorney, says the reason is clear: Colorado law does not allow for a murder charge unless there is a live birth. The Boulder County coroner determined baby Aurora did not live outside of the womb.

"I understand that many people in the community, and heaven knows I've heard from a lot of them, would like me to have filed homicide charges,” Garnett said. “However, that is not possible under Colorado law without proof of a live birth."

According to the National Association of State Legislatures, Colorado is one of 38 states that do have some type of fetal homicide law in place, but only 31 states open the door to first degree murder charges, and Colorado is not one of them.

"This is almost an area that we've overlooked,” said Denise Mowder, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in Denver and a former prosecutor who specialized in cases involving children.

Mowder says the fetal protection laws passed by Colorado lawmakers a couple of years ago did add a potential 32-year sentence for unlawful termination of a pregnancy, which Dynel Lane now faces. However, democrats have repeatedly voted down personhood laws, which go further.

'We have to make sure whatever we do doesn`t go down the road to banning abortion,” said Representative Mike Foote. “Which is what the personhood folks want to do."

"I don't buy it,” Mowder said. “They can work this out."

Mowder said there are 31 examples of states that have passed stronger laws protecting a fetus from criminal acts without banning abortion.

“It is a hard debate,” Mowder said. “But the result is that when (legislators) don't do anything that we have cases like this, that we can't further help the victim."

Senate President Bill Cadman released a statement Friday saying republicans are writing legislation that would strengthen Colorado’s fetal protection laws.​


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