Attorneys for Apple Valley, MN man argue fetus' death was an abortion

When an Apple Valley woman died in March, her 15-week-old fetus, too young to survive outside the womb, died with her.

Margorie Holland's husband, Roger Holland, is charged with murder in the deaths. But with his trial scheduled for Monday, his attorneys are making a novel argument: The death of the fetus was an abortion, not a murder, and the only person whose rights that such an act could have violated -- the mother -- already was dead.

Dakota County prosecutors disagree, arguing the murder charge is appropriate and that the idea Holland can't be charged in the death of the fetus is "patently offensive."

Holland's fate is unlikely to hinge on the distinction.

The facts of the case would make it difficult for jurors to conclude Holland killed the child but not his wife, and a first-degree murder conviction for his wife's death would carry a sentence of life in prison regardless of the other charges.

But the argument raises questions about how crimes against the unborn can be prosecuted.

It's rooted in the idea that two state laws -- one barring unlawful abortion, the other barring the murder of an unborn child -- govern essentially the same conduct but carry different punishments.
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