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Associated Press, Published October 22 2013

Defense: Death of fetus is abortion, not murder

HASTINGS, Minn. — The attorney for an Apple Valley man accused of killing his pregnant wife argues the death of her 15-week-old fetus was an abortion, not murder.

Roger Holland is accused of strangling 37-year-old Margorie Holland at their town house last March and trying to make it look like she accidentally fell down a staircase, according to a criminal complaint.

Defense attorney Marsh Halberg has filed a motion to have the murder charges dismissed. He argues that the only person whose rights could have been violated was the mother, and she was already dead. Halberg's argument raises questions about how crimes against the unborn can be prosecuted.

One state law bars unlawful abortion and another prohibits the murder of an unborn child. Both govern essentially the same conduct but carry different punishments, Halberg said.

"The exact conduct he is being accused of is chargeable under a separate, less severe statute," he wrote in his motion.

Halberg says the state's abortion law is the proper fit for accusations against Holland. The criminal abortion is an unranked offense in Minnesota, leaving the sentence up to the court's discretion, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/Hcyz15 ).

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said the laws on abortion and the murder of an unborn child are not interchangeable.

The argument that they're interchangeable "ignores the profound legal differences between an abortion" and the murder of an unborn child, he said. "For the court to accept this argument, it would have to place no value in the life of the unborn child separate and apart from the life of the mother," Backstrom said.

The court did not immediately rule on the motion. Holland's trial is scheduled for Monday.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com


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