I wrote a paper once in college for a political science class dealing with the topic of moral justice compared to legal justice. In it, I used a case from the Kentucky Supreme Court as an example to make my point. The case took place in 1983 and involved an individual named Robert Lee Hollis.
If I remember all the details of the case, it goes something like this: Mr. Hollis was separated from his pregnant wife. His wife was near the end of her pregnancy and due to have her baby at any time in the near future. Mr. Hollis did not want his wife to give birth to the child. Mr. Hollis met his estranged wife, and talked her into going into a barn to discuss the matter of having the child. It is at this point that Mr. Hollis assaults his wife, and forces his hand inside her, and removes the fetus with his bare hand, performing an "illegal abortion."
Initially, Mr. Hollis was tried for murder, more specifically, "murder of an unborn child." The Kentucky Supreme Court overturned this decision. The reasoning was that the unborn child did not fit the definition of a "person." The judges felt that in order to be considered a "person" the fetus would have had to have lived outside of it's mother's womb, independently and on it's own in order to be considered a "person." And since all statutes in the Kentucky Law at that time defined homicide as the willful termination of a "person's" life, Mr. Hollis had not, by Kentucky's state laws, committed murder. Aggravated Assault? You betcha. Murder? Not according to the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1983.
The law prevented Mr. Hollis from receiving the death penalty or life in prison. Morally though, most of us would agree that he deserved much worse.
What are your thoughts?