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Top Massachusetts Court finds that unborn babies are persons when they are killed as a result of the homicide of their mother

by | Feb 16, 2023

By Dave Andrusko

In 2009, a jury found Peter Ronchi guilty of the first-degree murders of his girlfriend, Yuliya Galperina, and her 8 and ½ month old unborn baby, for which the court imposed consecutive life sentences. Ronchi asked the Supreme Judicial Court “to reverse those convictions, based in part on his belief that it should not be up to the court to decide ‘at what point, if ever, a fetus attains personhood for the purposes of the law of homicide.’”

On Tuesday the Court ruled that “personhood rights extend to a fetus that is killed as a result of the homicide of a pregnant person,” Allie Reed reported. “Through its decision, the court affirmed the jury’s convictions and declined to overturn precedent set in the 1984 case Commonwealth v. Cass, which found that a viable fetus is a person in the context of vehicular homicide,” The Washington Examiner’s  Kaelan Deese wrote.

Rochi’s attorneys had argued

That he cannot, as a matter of law, be held liable for the death of the full-term fetus because he did not stab or injure

the fetus, who died due to loss of maternal  blood circulation.

But the Supreme Judicial Court concluded

The defendant’s contention that the fetus was uninjured by the stabbing of (his girlfriend) is strained at best. …

[T]the defendant committed an act of violence against a woman who was nine months pregnant , repeatedly stabbing her in, among other areas, the torso, where the vital organs are located. By ending the mother’s life, he destroyed the viable fetus through the cessation of life-sustaining maternal blood flow.

In the case of Yuliya Galperina, the mother, Rochi argued that the charge should be reduced to manslaughter. His attorney told the court that “no rational juror could have found that the stabbings were not the result of a heat of passion upon reasonable provocation.” What was the “reasonable provocation?” That she told him [falsely] he was not the father.

The justices were unpersuaded.

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