Sunday, October 27, 2002

Man pleads innocent in death of fetus



The Associated Press

STANFORD, Ky. - A Lawrenceburg man pleaded innocent Friday in Lincoln County court to a charge of wanton murder in connection with a fetus' death.

On Aug. 24, Stephen E. James, 50, crashed into the vehicle of Leah Denham, who was three days past her expected delivery date. Ralph Caleb Denham was delivered by Caesarean section, but never took a breath, according to Mrs. Denham's physician, Dr. Russel Goodwin.

Mr. James was allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. He is charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Mr. James is in the Lincoln County Detention Center. He faces first-degree assault and first-degree wanton endangerment for causing injury to Leah Denham and her husband Ralph Denham Jr., who was critically injured in the crash.

A hearing was scheduled for Nov. 22.

Kentucky's case law attracted nationwide interest in 2001 after a similar traffic death in Pike County.

In August, the state Court of Appeals overturned a guilty plea in the death of a fetus in a Pike County car crash, effectively upholding Kentucky case law that even a viable fetus is not a person until it is born alive.

Michael Riley, a spokesman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said it is not uncommon for unborn infants to die because of the actions of a driver who is under the influence, but many prosecutors shy away from filing murder charges because of the challenges with the law.




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