A new West Palm Beach mother has been arrested by authorities after allegedly placing her baby in a dumpster. She has been charged with attempted felony murder and abuse of a child without great bodily harm. As a criminal defense attorney, there are few cases that inspire as much revulsion toward a defendant as those in which a mother harms her own child. However, these cases, especially in case the of newborns are widely misunderstood.
While there is no condoning the woman’s actions and the potential death sentence that she put her baby through, newborn mothers are often prone to serious bouts of depression and even psychosis. Below, our West Palm Beach criminal attorneys will talk about one possible defense to a case like this.
Diminished Capacity and Insanity in a Dumpster Baby Case
Newborn mothers can leave babies at hospitals or fire stations without having charges brought against them. In these cases, the babies are simply sent for adoption or, as is the case too often, become wards of the state. However, this mother chose to place her baby in a bag and deposit it in a dumpster. If it were not for passersby hearing the crying, that’s where the baby would have died.
This resonates on a number of levels. Firstly, the baby was placed in an area designated for trash. This will greatly prejudice a jury against any defendant. The issue then becomes one in which the defense attorney is fighting an uphill battle where the actions of the defendant need to be framed in such a way as to reduce the absolute malice that the act implies. In other words, a defense attorney needs to show that the mother was not in her right mind when she made the choice. It also means that the burden of proof shifts to the defense to assert the truth of that claim.
The stakes are high for the defendant. Since the baby is expected to recover, the woman will not be charged with causing grievous bodily harm. The defendant is being charged with attempted felony murder which carries a maximum basic sentence of 15 years. Then, the victim’s injuries will be scored along with the felony that was being committed and this can all result in a life sentence for the defendant.
Since the defendant has already admitted to the act of putting the baby in the dumpster, the verdict seems like a foregone conclusion. However, a diminished capacity or “insanity” defense, could severely reduce the sentence against her.
In order to prove such a case, the defense would be in the position of showing either by family testimony or (better still) psychiatric testimony, that the defendant had a history of mood disorders with psychotic features. This makes something like postpartum psychosis that much easier to prove. However, it’s still an uphill battle as jurors will be forced to ask themselves what kind of person would throw a newborn baby in the trash.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
The Skier Law Firm P.A. represents defendants charged with serious crimes in West Palm Beach. Talk to us today to set up an appointment.