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Man on trial for "deliberately kicking his unborn baby to death"

19 July 2018

 
Christopher Kemp's parents told him to turn himself in after he admitted beating his 37 week pregnant ex-girlfriend.

"I didn't want to hurt her, just the baby."

A man in Birmingham, Alabama is on trial after being accused of beating his 37 week pregnant ex-girlfriend and killing her unborn child.

31 year old Christopher Ammons Kemp deliberately killed his unborn daughter in a vicious attack on Jessica Jackson, the court heard. Ms Jackson was left seriously injured, but her baby died from injuries including lacerated organs, displaced ribs, fractured bones, and a fractured skull, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Devastating injuries

Kemp is said to have targeted the baby after Ms Jackson finished their relationship, and told him she did not want his name on the birth certificate, or for the little girl to have his surname.

Ms Jackson kicked Kemp out of the house for the final time in January 2016, and by March, several incidents had left her too scared to be there alone. On March 16, she went home intending to pack a bag and leave, but Kemp was in the garage. Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Neil Zarzour told the court that Kemp knocked her to the ground and began choking her.

Her ex-husband (who she had recently become friends with again) was worried when she didn't answer his calls, and drove round to find her "frantic" and covered in blood. He rushed her to hospital where doctors performed emergency surgery and the baby girl was pronounced dead. Zarzour said the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on the baby's body described her injuries as "devastating." Ms Jackson was left in a coma for two days. 

Admits guilt

After the attack, Kemp allegedly sent a friend a facebook message saying "I didn't want to hurt her, just the baby."

Kemp turned himself in after admitting what he had done to his parents. Police found an aluminium bat at their house which they believe was used in the attack.

Kemp's lawyer said he accepts that "he is responsible for his conduct that day. He caused injury to Jessica [Jackson], he caused injury to his unborn child." However, he says that the attack was not premeditated, and that his client was high on Xanax both during the attack and when he sent the message, which "is not a reflection of what he meant."

Unborn children protected by Alabama law

Unlike in California, where a couple were recently accused of beating their unborn baby to death, Alabama's homicide laws protect unborn children. According to Alabama Code 13A-6-1, the term "person," when referring to the victim of a criminal homicide or assault, means a human being, including a child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability. If Kemp is found guilty of capital murder, as well as of burglary and first-degree domestic violence, he could face the death penalty.

What would  happen in the UK?

In the UK the Infant Life Preservation Act (1929) created the offence of 'child destruction' which carries a life sentence: "any person who, with intent to destroy the life of a child capable of being born alive, by any wilful act causes a child to die before it has an existence independent of its mother, shall be guilty of felony, to wit, of child destruction." Yet very few are ever convicted of child destruction, not least because the child must be sufficiently developed, and legal abortion does not come under the offence of child destruction. A very distressing UK case in which the baby's father attacked the mother to kill the baby after she refused an abortion has prompted calls to increase sanctions when someone other than the mother forcibly induces an abortion. 

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