DENVER, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Supreme Court ruled anyone injuring an unborn baby cannot be prosecuted for child abuse.
The court's 4-3 ruling Monday is binding even if the infant is born and survives an in utero attack with lifelong injuries, The Denver Post reported.
The majority of justices found the state’s child abuse law is unclear whether child abuse can occur in the womb. Because of the ambiguity, the court followed a last-resort approach obligating them to rule in favor of the defense.
Andre Jones, 38, was convicted of shooting his pregnant wife in the stomach in 2013, killing 32-year-old Lakeisha Jones and causing lasting injuries to her unborn daughter.
The court ruled Jones cannot be convicted of child abuse, even though the girl continues to suffer from neurological damage.
The court’s ruling will likely stop the prosecution of suspects who injure unborn children on child abuse charges if the child survives the attack.
But the decision also leaves open the possibility that fetuses can be considered persons under Colorado law.
Lawmakers will need to clarify whether unborn babies should be protected under the state’s child abuse statutes, said Aya Gruber, a University of Colorado Boulder law professor.