Keeler v. Superior Court

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Keeler v. Superior Court, 2 Cal. 3d 619.

Facts: Defendant's ex wife was pregnant from another man. Prior to the date in question, February 23, 1969, the ex wife had detected fetal movements. On the date in question, Defendant's ex wife was driving her vehicle on a deserted mountain road Defendant was driving in the opposite direction. He blocked the road with his car and subsequently attacked her by kneeing her abdomen. The baby was born still born. Medical experts concluded that at the date in question, the fetus had a 75-96% viability (chance of survival if prematurely delivered that day).

Issue: Whether the fetus which defendant was accused of killing was, on February 23, 1969, a "human being" within the meaning of statute. The statute in question includes in the definition of murder the "unlawful killing of a human being."

Holding: No, the fetus was not a human and so there was no murder committed.

Reasons: Murder is defined in the statute as the "unlawful killing of a human being, with malice aforethought." According to an 1850 statute, a fetus doesn't fit the definition of a human being, so Defendant is not guilty of murder.