On Mississippi and the Murder of a Pregnant Woman

I read this article on CNN this morning and I’m left pondering something about Mississippi’s law regarding murdering a pregnant woman and being charged for two murders.

If the murder victim was not yet visibly pregnant and the killer had no idea the woman was pregnant, does that still count as taking two lives in terms of murder?

CNN visitors: Please read the comments before jumping to conclusions about how I personally feel regarding this case and issue. Also, please make sure you understand what it is I’m asking.


  1. Who cares if the woman was showing or not? She still killed two people. I highly doubt that this selfish witch would have cared one way or the other. Saying ‘should it count as taking two lives’ is like saying someone shouldn’t be charged with murder because they didn’t know there were people inside a building they decided to torch.


  2. I never made ANY statement WHATSOEVER regarding MY opinion on the matter. You have no way of knowing if I agree with the fact that this particular person took two lives or not. But I’m not talking about this “selfish witch” (as you put it), because clearly she knew that the woman she killed was pregnant.

    I merely asked a question about the law. I may be incorrect about this, but I thought that the legal definition of murder included a great deal of intent, and if the person doesn’t know the person they are killing is indeed pregnant, is that still considered double murder?

    Lastly, I didn’t write “should it count…” I said “does it….” I’m questioning the actual legal definition, NOT an opinion. (Although, I welcome that as well as long as everyone plays nice!)


  3. My opinion (for what it’s worth, which ain’t much, honestly) is that if the person didn’t know the victim was pregnant, it would be one count of murder and one count of manslaughter.


  4. OK, and now I think about it some more, I’m reminded of the law (not sure if it applies nationally or just in some states) that says if someone is killed why you are committing a felony, you are charged with murder. So, since murder is considered a felony (duh), I guess the death of the baby would also count as murder since it happened during the commission of another felony. Did that make ANY sense or am I just rambling? I’ll shut up now.


  5. Wow, Milissa did you just find a loophole in the law? In that case, can’t every state (assuming what you said about someone dying during a felony is true) try a person for double murder if he or she murders a pregnant woman?


  6. I live in Mississippi and I know my answer is a bit out there, but this is a conversation that hits so close to home. One that we have in our household constantly.

    The problem with Mississippi law is not so much the guilty verdict or the sentencing, it the carrying out of said sentence. There are so many documented cases of people who have murdered and been sentenced to life, but have gotten out on early release. We had a close family friend who was murdered, in which one of the participants was sentenced to 40something years and was out in 5ish. I can’t explain the feeling of running into the person who killed someone you love in the grocery store. And I don’t wish it on any family.

    All of that being said, if it takes charging someone with 2 murders (whether they knew it or not) to keep them in jail longer, have at it.


  7. If you live in a state that has the “it’s murder if it happened while you were committing a felony” law, I guess a case could be made for saying that killing a pregnant woman is automatically a double-murder. But then that takes us back to the question of when human life begins, also a touchy subject. Hmmm….


  8. First of all, I am sorry to read that, Joanie. I don’t think Mississippi is alone regarding people getting (too) early paroled. It seems to happen all too often in the states. (I’m floored by some of the crimes committed in NYC by people who were supposed to be serving super long or life sentences but were released in no time.)

    Second of all, I did wonder that about this particular law. (Among other things.) I wondered if this was put into place so prosecutors could ensure a person not ever be eligible for parole. I’m assuming in most cases when a pregnant woman is killed it’s at the hands of her spouse or lover. And we all know that domestic abuse doesn’t seem to be taken as seriously as it should be taken in this country.



  9. And also, I don’t know what the “rule” is on charging someone with 2 murders. As far as I can recall (in this area anyway) this is the first one where it was 2 counts of actual murder. It’s usually 1 murder, 1 manslaughter.

    But at any rate, I’m glad this one made cnn, so maybe it’ll get talked about a little more…


  10. This is a sad story…I truly believe Keyon Pittman should’ve been charge to. he should’nt play 2women like that. Both women of the family seems to be caring & loving.


  11. No it don’t give NOONE RIGHTS to take another life….only GOD CAN JUDGE THE WORLD.


  12. My 18 yr old daughter was 5 1/2 months pregnant when she was murdered and she was barely showing, but you are pregnant from day one. There was no law in Ky. fo fetal homcide when my daughter Ashley Lyons and her unborn son Landon were killed b( Jan. 7,2004)ut there is now because we fought and got it passed .These woman are killed out of jealousy and yes the other women KNOW they are pregnant. Yes it should count as two murders,the muderer took two lives. My daughter died quickly because of being shot 3 times in the head,but the baby did not die instantly. According to the coroner it takes a baby 15-20 minutes to slowly suffocate in his mothers womb. There are 2 people doing life (20yrs. in Ky.!?!) we have been in and out of court for 5 yrs now. It never ends for the victims family or for the muderer’s family. We have to live this every day for the rest of our lives. And personaly I think the boyfriend had something to do with Avis and her unborn childs murder. There was a lot of rage taken out on this poor lady and someone set her off. I think he got away with murder. Does anyone else feal this way? Murder and robbery and all other crimes are commited everyday in this bad world we live in now…and if a person robs a place and kills the clerk and she is a pregnant woman shouldn’t he be charged with two murders? If he knew she was pregnant do you think that would change his mind about commiting the crime? No , so sorry he should be punished accordingly.If man lived according to God’s law we would immediatly send these murderer’s and rapist to him. That is why we pay such high taxes in this land of the free to take care of all the criminals in their comfortable jail cells and by the way when you are a lifer without parole you have your own cell and are allowed all kinds of privledges that even hard working law abiding citizens do not have. Yes I am an angry mother that lost her BABY GIRL (18 YRS. OLD) and MY GRANDSON to a senceless crime. So now will come the haters because I spoke up, well whats new!If you had to live my life now you would be angry too(and yes I see a therapist and and all that) Ashley’s proud Mom and Landon’s proud Mimi, Carol Lyons


  13. I agree wit u carol, I also think he got away with this murder…he show no TEARS none at alllll!!!! FAKE. But i’m sorry4 ur lost & it is saddd…I don’t blame u2 being angry…but sweetie, give it to GOD, and let go all ur angry. CARING WORLD.


  14. If a woman wants an aboertion in MIssissippi is that murder? Can her boyfriend have her arrested?


  15. I find it hard to believe that she did not know the woman was pregnant. She was having an affair with the boyfriend and I am certain they talked about the pregnancy. Perhaps he told her he was not happy about the pregnancy, we will never know. This I do know: If you decide to commit a horrific crime such as this, you will get no sympathy for “not knowing” she was pregnant. I’m glad she got life, she deserves it.


  16. Your question pretty well hits the problem with the Mississippi law on the head.

    Intent is one of the key elements of murder as defined by the U.S. legal system; the technical term is mens rea, which, roughly translated, means “guilty mind.” That’s difficult to establish in cases when the perpetrator had no way of knowing whether his or her victim was pregnant.

    More problematic to me, though, is that this sort of law requires that one accept the idea that a fetus – or even an embryo – is a person. Otherwise, no murder occured.

    It’s worth noting that, after victim’s rights advocates, the most vocal supporters of fetal homicide laws are pro-life groups.


  17. I think that if the murderer was aware that the woman was pregnant, then they should be charged with killing two people. There was a case very close to my home in which a woman who was 9 months pregnant was murdered by the father of her unborn child. He was sentenced and convicted of murdering two people, they surmise that he murdered them because he didn’t want to pay more child support.


  18. I definitely don’t think it should be called a double murder if its within the first two trimesters. It is simply not a human being at that point in the eyes of science, and only a “life” in the eyes of those religions that view it as such.

    At 6-9 months, the fetus is viable and has enough brain tissue to validate a consciousness. I’m fine with some charge being filed on that. As to exactly what the charge is, I think knowledge of the pregnancy is an important factor. If the assailant knew that the victim was pregnant, than it would be a purposeful murder / “first degree murder” in most states; however if the assailing did not know that the victim was pregnant, then it would be manslaughter. As someone mentioned above, in many US states if you are convicted of manslaughter that occured during a felony ( such as murder ), the manslaughter charge is escalated into one called “felony murder”.

    I guess what I’m saying is that these intricacies need to be taken into account , as they describe different crimes — and that the world isn’t black and white. I think in some cases this situation should only be one murder, in others two murders, and in others one murder plus one felony murder.


  19. to Jonathan, please go ask your mother when you became a baby? When you took your first breath or when you were conceived and got your soul and was a living baby growing inside her nurturing womb for those 9 months. Science?!? Viabilty is said to be at 24 weeks, there are babies born that live at 19 weeks.My grandson Landon was only 22 weeks and on my daughter Ashley’s ultrasound he was marked VIABLE. I held that little perfectly formed baby boy and placed him in his mothers arms bfore they were buried together. Abortion is a different issue,and personaly I think both the mother and father should agree. Murder is defined as lying in wait to take someones life or lives!Where is the justice for the women that are murdered just to get rid of the baby? What about their right to life? If the father does not want them…walk away don’t murder them!And to you all ;I have given it to God and that is why I fight everyday to keep those in jail that did this horrible crime and fight to support others that go thru this terrible life altering event. Ashley’s Father and older Brother found her shot to death in her car……… do you think they don’t live that moment everyday? We are not talking about a broken piece of glass or a wrecked car those are just things that can be replaced, we are talking about TAKING A LIFE! In this case two lives were taken.May the Good Lord Bless all of you and may you never know our pain.


  20. Carol,

    You are free to believe that an embryo or fetus is a human life, that is what makes America such a great country.

    But you are not free to dictate to others that human life begins as conception or any other point — that is a belief rooted in religion… one that you are free to believe in, and I am equally free from being ascribed to.

    To answer the question that Michele asked it does not matter when I believe life begins, nor does it matter when you believe life begins. The heart of the matter is the point at which The State observes that a life has begun.

    I have little interest in weaving a discourse of abortion into this, but they are both fundamentally linked as to determining the point of embryonic and fetal development at which The State recognizes life and, more specifically, human life. In a secular society — and one that not only embraces but highlights freedom of religion as an underlying principle — this is something that must be governed by science and fact, not belief. Anything different would be nothing short of enforcing the religous beliefs of one group onto another.

    Science has proven a certain set of qualities to determin when a life has begun; qualities which are typically mapped to a certain point in gestation. From conception until that point, a person’s own religous beliefs will dictate when life has begun.

    To answer your question, my mother is a Roman Catholic and believes I was a ‘life’ at the moment of conception. I am agnostic and a secular humanist; I do not believe I had a consciousness nor constituted a “life” at any point before the 32nd week of her pregnancy. We’re both Americans, respect each other’s beliefs, and don’t force our views on each other. ( Although I often try to convince her to at least become Protestant )

    Having said all that, I will say that I am truly sorry for the loss of your loved ones. Science, religion and laws are not needed to repsect and sympathize when someone has loved and lost from a horrible tragedy.


  21. My opinion, Those that say let god take care of it. Is he taking these criminals off the street is he punishing them while they are free and affecting other peoples lives and killing people. The answer is NO welcome to reality in the world and country you live in. Killing another person and taking their live should remove you from having any living rights in the free world. Their are those that dont agree with the death penalty that is fine you pay with your taxes to keep them alive, I reserve mine for taking them out of the system entirely. I dont believe in parole at all i think its a waste of time and unfair to those victims that endured pain and suffering at the hands of these criminals. Now for the laws in different states i think they should all be the same this is the United States of America “One Nation” last i checked but each state has its policy and law makers they change laws to jocky for position, election, and money. I defend this country for everyone to be treated fairly, judged equaly, and punished the same. I pray every day this happens i am still waiting.


  22. Hmm…It makes me wonder if someone goes in the express line at a grocery store that says no more than 6 items, and they are buying a dozen eggs and a six pack of beer, and a package of hot dog rolls, dont they really have 26 items? Shouldnt they be kicked out of the line? Especially since the eggs were actually 12 embryos


  23. I’ll add to that.

    Can I drive in the HOV lane while pregnant? Even if it’s just me and my fetus in the car?


  24. Carol
    I googled your daughter and saw pictures of both her and your grandson, Landon, in the sonogram. She was an absolutely beautiful girl and didn’t deserve what was done to her. I truly hope you are able to get the KY law changed and those 2 can be tried again for double homocide. If that is even possible at this point. I am just beside myself that they didn’t get life without parole, at the very least! My heart goes out to you and your family.


  25. Just a girl, women have argued unsuccessfully about using the HOV lane while pregnant. So far all the laws seem to be that the second person has to occupy their own seat.

    I am pro-choice, and I have a hard time reconciling my personal beliefs about abortion with the fact that I believe a person should be charged with two murders if they murder a pregnant woman. I realize the hypocrisy in this, and it’s something I struggle with. I am still trying to figure it out, so please don’t attack me for it. I realize people have very strong emotions about this subject.

    To answer Michele’s question, I believe that, due to a law referenced above, it would count as taking two lives since the fetus’ death would also be caused during the murder of the mother.

    But the rulings of that law get sticky when it involves a pregnancy, since there is still no consensus on when life begins. Until there is, (and I don’t think there ever will be) cases like this could go either way, depending on the stance of the judge or jury.


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