Postpartum depression could be used as legal defense for mothers

By Courtney Lane - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Texas could become the first state to have an infanticide law. Democratic state representative Jessica Farrar of Houston filed the bill earlier this month.

If the bill is passed, a mother who killed her baby and suffered from postpartum depression, would get a maximum sentence of two years in jail.

In 2003, Deanna Laney used rocks to stone and kill two of her sons. She was found "not guilty by reason of insanity." Smith County D.A. Matt Bingham says this new bill would not affect cases like Laney's. Instead, it would apply to mothers who suffer from Postpartum Depression - a far less severe illness.

"I think 80 percent [of new mothers] suffer from some form of Postpartum Depression after birth but most of them do not kill their children," said Bingham.

If they do suffer from depression, Bingham says jurors can already take that into consideration.

"But, they could never access two years in state jail facility, which is the same punishment you get if you write a 1500 hot check," said Bingham. "To me that's just ridiculous."

That's right. If the bill passed, a woman suffering from depression who killed her baby within 12 months of birth could only be sentenced to two years.

"When parents do such things to babies who are one day old to 12 months in this bill and they know it's wrong to do it, and they do it anyway, they should be prosecuted and they should be punished severely whether it's the death penalty or life without parole," said Bingham.

He says passing the bill would be a slippery slope because murder suspects already try to plead insanity. With this, mother's could use a far less severe illness, and one that's more prevalent to get away with a crime.

"If mothers know that this is out there, there's always a possibility that they can do something horrific like kill their child that's 12 months or younger and try to use this as a defense," he said.

Bingham believes the bill is too far fetched and will never pass. Postpartum Depression is recognized as a legal defense in some other nations, but nowhere here in the United States.