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Man Sentenced in Fetus Death

April 8, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A man whose shooting of a pregnant woman resulted in the death of her baby was sentenced Friday to 15 to 30 years in prison.

Leonard Hall, 21, of New York, claimed he accidentally shot Brigitte Garrett, 29, while firing into a crowd at a bully who had beaten him up.

Ms. Garrett, who underwent seven hours of surgery and was hospitalized 11 days after she was shot, wept quietly in her second-row seat as state Supreme Court Justice William Davis pronounced sentence. ″I thank the Lord and I thank (Assistant District Attorney) Joel Seidemann,″ she said.

Hall was convicted March 9 of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree criminal possession of a weapon and first-degree assault. The jury cleared him of murder, after finding he had not intended to harm Ms. Garrett.

Ms. Garrett, who now lives in Los Angeles, gave birth to a 2-pound-5-ounce baby, who had a heartbeat but no other vital functions. Named Atallah, she died of respiratory failure 36 hours later.

Hospital officials said the baby had hyaline membrane disease, common to premature babies, and never breathed without life support equipent.

The homicide case centered on whether the baby was born alive since she never breathed independently. Citing a 1949 New York decision known as the ″born alive″ ruling, defense lawyers argued unsuccessfully that since the baby never survived without mechanical life support, she could not be considered a person and Hall could not be charged with her death.

The ″born alive″ ruling defines a ″person″ as one who has been fully expelled from the mother’s body and had independent circulation.