baby-in-microwave part 2

Dear Cecil,

I know I am a little late in bringing this up, as the woman inquestion has served pretty much her whole sentence by now, but I am very concerned about the quoted prosector’s statements regarding the mother’s seizure state. He seems to infer that the mother was claiming that she was having a seizure when she put the baby in the microwave…of course that could not be the case, at least with grand mal seizures. However, sufferers from seizures that involve a god part of the central nervous system experience what is called a “post-ictal” state after they seize, during which they are quite confused but able to act to varying degrees. It is a form of delirium, and one could be quite capable of mistaking a baby for something else and microwaving it in such a circumstance, with no malice or understanding. The prosecutor’s remarks about the buttons being complicated are ludicrous. Perhaps he finds microwaves to be hard to use, but may have quick-start buttons and so forth, and in any case, a post ictal individual could cetainly carry out the near-automatic function of starting a microwave, especially if one is not picky about what settings and for how long.

I know this comment is too late to be of any use at all, and in addition that you have no authority over prosecutors (though we all wish you did). Also I don’t know the whole story and all the details. If they are as they sound, though, it may be that a woman suffering from a debilitating illness/disorder not only suffered the tragedy of killing her own child by accident, but the the horror of being prosecuted as a murderer, having to plea-bargain down to manslaughter. I hope at least that the prosector might find these facts a bit to his chagrin.



IMO, there are 2 possibilities here:

  1. She delibrately murdered her baby. Murderers should be locked up in prison.

  2. She sometimes goes into “a form of delirium” in which she is not capable of distinguishing between her baby and a bag of microwave popcorn. So she’s delirious enough to be a danger to babies and others in society, and so should be locked up in an asylum.

Either way, this woman should be locked up for a long time.
And I always thought I was a left-wing liberal!

And the link to the column is Did a stoned babysitter once microwave a baby?

It helps us to read along.

I have no formal creds to give me much say in this one, but all the epileptics/ individuals who experience epileptic like seizures- I know,

a. have been known to go into clouds where anything is possible.

b. are almost certainly repsonsive enough to meds that, no, they don’t need to be locked up in an assylum.

But thats whats surreal about the human brain is that anything is possible.

I’d kinda like to know what her GP had to say about his treatment plan?! In the wrong scenario he’d get sued!

It seems that there have been two reported cases of mothers nuking babies while mistaking the babies for formula. You’re not supposed to heat formula in microwaves. All the baby books say that and doctors too. If people would heat their formula correctly, they might be less likely to accidentally microwave their baby. Or, Wait! I have an even better idea… breastfeed!

t-bonham: I am not saying that there should by no means be punishment here…after all, if the woman was careless with her seizure medications, then she was taking a willful risk, and manslaughter might well be appropriate, but certainly not murder. However, sometimes even the most dedicated patient with seizure disorders can have breakthrough seizures. There may be no warning signs, nor any reason for them to expect it, and thus no way to prepare. To lock all individuals with seizure disorders in asylums is a ridiculous notion, akin to suggesting that we lock away all those with potentially contagious diseases. Apart from seizures, just about anyone can become delirious from various causes including high fevers.
Zorabel: I agree that breastfeeding is, in general, the healthiest of choices for feeding babies, but is sometimes impractical and, in the case of mothers on seizure medications, absolutely contraindicated. As for heating formula in microwaves, the reason it is often discouraged is due to uneven heating that leaves potential hotspots in the milk. You certainly can do it, if you’re careful to mix it very well afterward and test its temperature carefully before giving it to a baby. The warnings against this are generally meant for the same individuals that need to be told that Pop-Tarts may be too hot to handle when they come out of the toaster.

Sorry, DoctorM, I don’t think I understand your point. Please note that Cecil is only quoting a few sentences from what must have been a lengthy court record. And it is not up to a prosecutor to present a fair and balanced (can I say that?) picture of what happened. God knows, defendants provide all sorts of implausible explanations on their part.

Given the limited knowledge that we have of the circs, the prosecutor pushed for the explanation that this was a deliberate murder. The mother didn’t try to argue (for instance) that someone snuck into the house while she was watching TV, murdered the baby, dropped a bloody glove, and then snuck back out. She didn’t try to argue that the microwave didn’t have a warning on it, telling her not to put the baby in it. She claimed that she wasn’t aware of what she was doing.

There is no reason prima facie to believe her statement, regardless of how plausible or implausible it sounds. If the “I didn’t realize what I was doing” argument is always believed when plausible, anyone could get away with anything. It is the prosecutor’s responsibility to challenge that sort of explanation, which he did.

The settlement seems to have been accepted by both sides.

The alternative, and what you seem to be suggesting, is that any time someone says, “OOoh, ooooh, I was in a drug-induced fog, I didn’t realize what I was doing when I shot my wife and pawned all her jewels”… that they should automatically be believed, assuming there is some inherent plausibility? Isn’t it the prosecutor’s duty to challenge every bit of that statement?

First of all, let me admit again that we don’t know the circumstances, and you’re right, that changes an awful lot. For all I know, this lady may be blowing so much smoke, in which case the prosecutor should indeed push for a murder conviction. However, just speaking hypothetically about her having committed the act while in a post-ictal state, does change the nature of the crime, and even changes whether or not a crime was commited. The concept is known as “mens rea” and essentially refers to the intent/state of mind of the accused. There is a great difference between somebody being in a mental state caused by illness and one they voluntarily entered by imbibing drugs, especially illegal ones, but any one with known mind-altering effects at least. Thus, drunk drivers are liable if they lose control and hit someone and kill them, whereas someone who has a heart-attack while driving and loses control and hits someone should not be liable, civilly or criminally, unless they had or should have had warning of the event.

In the case we’re discussing (and I know I’m assuming a great deal, so please forgive me), if the woman had a known seizure disorder but was reckless about taking her medications or about other aggravating factors, and so had a seizure and microwaved her child when post-ictal, then she definitely should be charged with and convicted of manslaughter…but not murder. To murder requires the intent to kill, and since the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, not on the accused, there would have to be some very good evidence that she wanted to take her baby’d life or at least didn’t frankly care if it lived or died.

If she was, though, following her doctor’s advice, taking her medications and still had a seizure despite what she thought were all the possible precautions, and then had a seizure anyway and killed her baby in post-ictal confusion, thinking she was doing something else, then no crime has been committed, though she would no doubt punish herself.

It is true that prosecutors do not have to present a fair and balanced view of things, but they do have to have a basis for the charges they file. If his only basis for thinking a true murder took place was that a person having a seizure cannot operate a microwave, then he was a fool, since she was not having a seizure when this happened but was POST-seizure (post-ictal is the correct term) and even people with very limited mental capacity can operate most microwave ovens, as demonstrated numerous times daily in most 7-11 stores.

Now maybe the prosecutor knew or had heard or suspected that this woman had hated her baby and was sorry it had ever been born, or maybe something beyond what we know made the situation suspicious. I’m just saying that his statements about the diificulty of using a microwave while having a seizure do not support him pursuing murder charges but rather point out his ignorance.