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Commonwealth v. Crawford

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
430 Mass. 683 (2000)


Michael Crawford (defendant) shot his girlfriend, Kimberly Noblin, in the face. At the time of the shooting, Noblin was at least seven months pregnant with Crawford’s child. Crawford was convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of Noblin and her unborn fetus. A medical examiner testified that the fetus died of oxygen deprivation, but had been viable. The trial judge defined viability as “having reached such a stage of development as to be potentially able of living outside the mother’s womb, notwithstanding artificial aid.” Crawford appealed and filed motions arguing that: (1) the homicide statutes were unconstitutionally vague, because the term viability had not been defined by the legislature or the courts; (2) the trial judge’s instruction on viability unconstitutionally lowered the state’s burden of proof, and (3) the judge’s instructions incorrectly permitted the jury to find the defendant guilty of fetal homicide without proof of his knowledge of its existence and viability. All motions were denied.

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Holding and Reasoning (Spina, J.)

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Concurrence (Abrams, J.)

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