News Law and Policy

Jury Passes Down Guilty Verdict in ‘Horrific’ Attack on Pregnant Woman

Jason Salzman

The case spotlighted Colorado’s “Unlawful Termination of Pregnancy Act,” which allows prosecutors to charge people with additional penalties for assaulting a pregnant person.

A Colorado jury found Dynel Lane guilty Tuesday of attempted first-degree murder, unlawful termination of a pregnancy, and other first-degree assault charges for luring Michelle Wilkins to her house with a Craigslist ad for free baby clothes and cutting Wilkins’ fetus from her body.

Wilkins, following the jury’s decision, called the verdict “a triumph for justice, for Aurora [the name she’d chosen for her fetus], for myself … for the community.”

“I am only trying to find peace and stability in the turbulent wake of this event,” Wilkins told reporters. “My spirituality and my faith in humanity and in spirit pulls me through even my darkest days. But I do not mean to suggest that it makes it easy. How confusing is it that life can seemingly be so cruel and so beautiful at the same time.”

Wilkins thanked the jury, first responders, and doctors, who Wilkins said have told her she still has the potential to have children, if she chooses to try. She said she’d forgiven Lane, but is angry at the pain Lane had caused.

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The case spotlighted Colorado’s 2013 “Unlawful Termination of Pregnancy Act,” which allows prosecutors to charge people like Lane with additional penalties for assaulting a person like Wilkins, who was seven months pregnant, above what would normally be allowed in such cases.

Democratic lawmakers who backed that Colorado law have refused repeated Republican attempts, including one last year in the wake of the attack on Wilkins, to pass legislation giving a fetus legal standing as a person. That would allow prosecutors to bring murder charges against a defendant like Lane.

Such a fetal “personhood” law, Democrats argued, could have effectively banned legal abortion in Colorado and could have been used against pregnant people who miscarried, for example.

Pro-choice advocates pointed out that such a law subjecting pregnant people to unique prosecution violates their civil rights, while the state’s anti-choice leaders argued that a fetus is, in fact, a person.

Colorado’s laws protect reproductive rights while subjecting those who commit crimes to severe penalties, Democratic legislators have said. In this case, Lane was found guilty on all six counts she faced and could serve more than 100 years in prison.

Appearing with Wilkins after the verdict, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett thanked the jury and called Wilkins “an incredibly brave and tenacious person.”

He called it a “horrific and unspeakably sad crime for the whole community but especially for Michelle.”

Lane will be sentenced April 29.

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