May 24, 2:58 PM EDT
Pittsburgh woman to stand trial for putting fetus in freezer
By JOE MANDAK
Associated Press Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A woman who put her miscarried fetus in her freezer was ordered to stand trial for abuse of a corpse, a decision her attorney said contradicts established state law that a stillborn fetus is not a corpse.
Christine Hutchinson had the miscarriage 15 to 20 weeks into her pregnancy, wrapped the fetus in two bags and put it in a beer carton in her freezer on April 22. She didn't call for medical help or other assistance.
Her attorney, Lawrence Fisher, doesn't contest the facts of the case. But, he said, "If the fetus is not born alive, you cannot have criminal liability."
"This flies in the face of 215 years of precedent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that a fetus is not a person - and if you're not a person, you're not a corpse when you die," Fisher said.
Pittsburgh District Judge Oscar Petite also ordered Hutchinson, 22, of Pittsburgh, to stand trial on a charge of concealing the death of a child, a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to five years in prison. The charge, which prosecutors added just before the hearing, applies to the death of a child or a miscarriage, Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Tom Stangrecki said.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner determined the fetus died in utero, apparently from natural causes though some tests were still pending.
Fisher accused prosecutors of filing the charges for political reasons.
"Apparently the district attorney's office is burnishing its pro-life credentials and my client is a pawn in a pro-life political prosecution," Fisher said.
District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., a Democrat, would not comment on the case. His spokesman, Mike Manko, refused to comment on Fisher's statements.
"Evidence was presented and the judge held it for court," Manko said.
The decision to prosecute Hutchinson appears to contradict a decision Zappala's office made two years ago in a still-pending case against a funeral director. Robert B. Winston, 62, is accused of storing the remains of hundreds of fetuses and babies in the garage at his McKeesport home after a hospital paid him to have them cremated.
Zappala charged Winston with 19 counts of abuse of a corpse for how Winston treated the remains of 19 babies that died shortly after birth. The district attorney's office said at the time that no charges were filed over remains from abortions, stillbirths and miscarriages because the fetuses hadn't been born alive.
Judge Petite lowered Hutchinson's $500,000 bond, allowing her to remain free with posting bail until trial. She had been jailed since police, acting on a tip, found the remains in her freezer May 17.