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Detroit Teen Assault Case: Is the Prosecutor Mounting an Attack on Roe v Wade?

Reported by Marie Therese - January 18, 2005

As promised yesterday, here are the two transcripts of last week's interviews with Detroit civil rights attorney Miranda Massie and prosecutor Eric Smith on The O'Reilly Factor (January 14 & 15, 2005). Yesterday a number of our readers got very passionately involved in a discussion about the case being brought against a 16 year old boy who aborted his girlfriend's fetus by hitting her several times over a two week period in the stomach with a miniature bat.

The discussion on this site yesterday centered around the question of whether or not Bill O'Reilly quoted Ms. Massie correctly in his opening statements to prosecutor Smith. Having transcribed both interviews and read everyone's comments, I believe that Mr. O'Reilly was making accurate representations of statements made my Ms. Massie in media outlets other than FOX News, but he neglected to let his viewers know that. As evidenced in yesterday's interchange, such an oversight on Mr. O'Reilly's part could easily lead the typical FOX viewer to the mistaken conclusion that Mr. O'Reilly was lying because such a viewer would naturally assume that the quotes attributed to Ms. Massie were contained in the interview of the day before. Mr. O'Reilly - as the self-identified "humble correspondent" for "the folks" - should be more careful to identify his media sources, especially in an interview that is set up as a rebuttal to a prior interview.

Note the radically different tone O'Reilly takes in these two interviews. With Ms. Massie he is rude and combative and overtalks her, finally escalating into typical apoplectic bloviating. With Mr. Smith he is respectful and calm and overtalks hardly at all.

Also, do you feel that the prosecutor in this case trying to create a precedent to overthrow Roe v Wade?

For a fuller report on the whole story, go to The Detroit News.

A piece of technical information for those of you that - like me - didn't know the size of a miniature bat. From the web: Construction is one piece solid aspen, the barrel is 1-3/8" in diameter and they run 12" to 16" in length.


(Note: Bill O'Reilly's introduction was messed up on my videotape. This is usually a few sentences outlining the topic, introducing the guest and asking the first question.)

MASSIE: First I want to say, there are two choices here. We can provide teens with access to safe, legal abortions and access to intelligent information about sxc or we're gonna see more and more back alley abortions like this one. Parental notification laws, gag orders on clinics, no funding for abortions, abstinence-only sex ed - what they add up to is desperate attempts like this, which these kids engaged in only after getting false information about the law and false medical information from official crisis hotlines and only after making other, very desperate attempts to end this unwanted pregnancy. And these are good kids. They're the President and Vice-President of the Creative Writing Club at their school. He's a junior firefighter. He's a gentle, great kid.

O'Reilly: OK. Now, the prosecutor in the case says that both the boy and the girl went to Planned Parenthood, where you would logically go if you had to deal with this kind of a situation. Alright. Is that true? Did they go to Planned Parenthood?

MASSIE: They did not.

O'Reilly: They did not. So the prosecutor is not telling the truth?

MASSIE: I have not heard him quoted as saying that before you just uttered those words and he is mistaken.

O'Reilly (overtalks her last 3 words): OK. Let me give you the quote [reading] "The couple told investigators - police investigators - they contacted Planned Parenthood and ..."

Massie begins to say "no" then stops.

O'Reilly (continuing): "... they were told what to do. They chose not to follow those instructions." [Stops reading.]

MASSIE: That's not true. They called a crisis center. They called a couple of crisis hotlines.

O'Reilly: I'm not gonna try it here. I'm just telling ya' - this is what you're gonna face in court. Now, if indeed ...

MASSIE (overtalks): I, I hadn't, I hadn't heard that before.

O'Reilly makes hand gestures and vocalizations to indicate that she should stop speaking.

O'Reilly: I'm not going to try it here.

MASSIE: Good. He's mistaken.

O'Reilly: But, if, indeed, the police can produce Planned Parenthood people who are gonna come on in there and say that your client and his girlfriend contacted them, and then rejected their help or whatever, then they're gonna get convicted. Number two. This is what I won't get here. Any kid 16 years old in the United States of America knows you don't take a baseball bat, miniature or otherwise, and pound your girlfriend. And tellin' me these are good, smart kids that are responsible and I'm sayin' there's something really wrong here. Now you're sayin' they couldn't go to the school. They couldn't go to the parents. They didn't go to Planned Parenthood. You know, it's not stackin' up. It's just not stackin' up. We live in a ...

MASSIE: They made a ...

O'Reilly: ... country where there's a lot of options on things like this rather than hittin' your girlfriend in the stomach with a baseball bat.

MASSIE: They were - they were given misinformation about the options in a systematic way, Bill, and that's what's so upsetting about this situation.

O'Reilly (interrupts, overtalks last 5 words): Alright. What about burying ...

MASSIE (ignores him): ... They did make a bunch of calls ...

O'Reilly (won't let her finish): Alright. What about burying this ...

MASSIE: ... and they were given misinformation

O'Reilly: Alright. Again. Can't try it here! That's your, that's what you're gonna say. Prosecutor's gonna say something else. Jury'll decide. But what about burying a 6 month old fetus in the back yard? And not only that. But you say they couldn't go to their parents. The two mothers knew about it. After they killed the fetus (louder and louder] THEY TOLD THE MOTHERS THEY KILLED IT AND THE MOTHERS KNEW IT WAS BURIED IN THE BACK YARD!!!!! This is unraveling here!!!

MASSIE: No. No, it's not. I ....

O'Reilly (cuts her off): Ya' can't go, ya' can't go to your parents when you're pregnant ...

MASSIE: Bill, can I please just finish just one sentence?

O'Reilly (ignores her and continues): But you can tell ‘em you buried a fetus in the back yard!

MASSIE: Are you going to let me finish a sentence?

O'Reilly (ignores her, puts up his hand to indicate she should stop): But .. wait, wait! ... wait. I hafta, I hafta frame it. You can't tell your parents ...

MASSIE: Here's the sentence I'm going to finish. The mothers found out about the pregnancy ...

O'Reilly: ‘Cause they told ‘em!

MASSIE (continues): ... at the time of the miscarriage. They called a hospital and asked how to dispose of the fetal remains. The hospital said there are not regulations governing this. You can bury them or throw them away. They didn't want to throw them away and so they buried them It's not - there's nothing sinister about that. People have been trying to sensationalize it. They sought advice and they followed it and it's something that's traumatized both families completely.

O'Reilly (interrupts, overtalks last 10 words): But in the end they told the mothers, they told the mothers what happened!

MASSIE: All of these parents support these kids ...

O'Reilly: OK.

MASSIE: ... and oppose the prosecution. Their mothers did not, at that point, know that the children had tried to end the pregnancy, but they found out later. All the parents ...

O'Reilly: Alright.

MASSIE: ... including the girl's parents oppose this prosecution.

O'Reilly: We're gonna, we're gonna - if what you say is true, then it's a whole tragedy. But, we're gonna follow the case.

MASSIE: It was a complete tragedy.

O'Reilly: We're gonna follow the case. But you don't do this kind of stuff and that's the message everybody should have.

MASSIE: You don't prosecute two desperate kids...

O'Reilly: Well....

MASSIE: ... who are already traumatized.

O'Reilly: ...the state has a responsibility ...

Music starts up, her screen disappears.

MASSIE (voice only): Give them information.

O'Reilly: ... to see the truth comes out. We'll be right back.


O'Reilly: Last night we talked with an attorney who's representing a 16 year old Michigan boy who killed his girlfriend's 6 month old fetus by hitting her in the stomach with a miniature bat over and over and over.

[N.B. In newspaper accounts it is stated that he hit her over a two week period. O'Reilly makes it sound like it was a single event.]

O'Reilly: The lawyer claimed the boy should not even be prosecuted. The girl is not being prosecuted. Joining us from Detroit is the prosecutor in this case, Eric Smith. Alright. According to Miranda Massie [whom] we had on last night - and we appreciated counselor Massie comin' on - this case should not be prosecuted, you are grandstanding, it's all a political play, the boy and the girl are respectable people who got bad advice from everybody, it's not their fault. So, what's the truth?

SMITH: Bill, the law is clear in Michigan. If you assault a pregnant woman and cause a miscarriage, it's a crime. Defense wants to make this an abortion rights issue. For us, it's black and white. The lawmakers made this for us to follow and we're doing that.

O'Reilly: Mr. Smith, Miss Massie says it is not an assault because the girl consented to it. She wanted this to happen. Therefore, she was not assaulted.

SMITH: Well, in Michigan, case law is clear. You can't consent to an act that's prohibited by law. And I guess the best example of that is, if I told you to kill me, you couldn't kill me and then say "Well, he consented to it." You'd still be guilty of murder.

O'Reilly: What about the boy and girl? Were they misled by everyone and they didn't know where to go, as, as - uh - counselor Massie contends, or is there somethin' else here?

SMITH: Well, according to his interview with the Michigan state police, they called the crisis center hotline. They were made aware of their options. They chose not to avail themselves to those options. They chose this option.

O'Reilly (overtalks last 4 words): Gimme more detail on that, because we said that they - last night - our information from your office was that they called Planned Parenthood.

SMITH (nods head): Yeah. Right.

O'Reilly: They didn't call Planned Parenthood. We want to be clear on that.

SMITH: That's correct.

O'Reilly: But they called, you say, the crisis hotline. And, do you know what they were told?

SMITH: I wasn't with them, but, according to his interview, the young man's interview, he said "we were made aware of our options." And obviously, they didn't choose to avail themselves to these options.

O'Reilly: But you're gonna hafta know when you go into court. You're gonna hafta know exactly - uh - because she's gonna say, her, the defense lawyer's ...

SMITH: Yes ...

O'Reilly: ... gonna say "Look they were given wrong information. They didn't know what to do. It isn't their fault. You can't be prosecuting them. This is just a big mistake."

SMITH: Well, Bill, I think at 16, you're old enough to know better. There's gotta be some accountability in this and I think the idea of striking a pregnant woman in the stomach with a bat over and over - I can't believe a crisis center would ever tell someone to do that!

O'Reilly: No. I can't either. But, she says the crisis center didn't give them information that they - I don't know - I'm not there!

SMITH: Yeah.

O'Reilly: But your state police are gonna have to really define that. I think that's a key part of this whole thing. Why isn't the girl being prosecuted? I mean, if she was in on this, wanting to kill the fetus, which they succeeded in doing, why isn't she being prosecuted?

SMITH: Well, it's interesting. In Michigan the law that we're prosecuting under, the only law where, if you assault a woman and cause the death of an embryo, that law states very specifically you cannot prosecute the pregnant individual for acts under this law. So, we're hamstrung.

O'Reilly (overtalks last 3 words): So, even if the pregnant individual is aiding and abetting the crime?

SMITH: That's correct. And as a matter of fact it goes down to viability. If this child was viable, meaning able to sustain life outside of the womb, we'd have been able to charge manslaughter charges and charge her as well. But ...

O'Reilly: Well, how do you know at six month [sic] it wasn't viable? There have been births at 6 months ..

SMITH: Yeah.

O'Reilly: ... that have lived.

SMITH: You're exactly right, but we have to rely on our medical examiner and our doctors. You know, I'm a lawyer. I don't know this stuff. But that's what they tell us.

O'Reilly: What about burying the baby in the - or the - wh - fetus - you know, put it whatever you want - I'm gonna call it a baby - in the back yard. I mean, what was that all about?

SMITH: Well, I think that, if nothing else, tells us that they knew what they were doing was wrong. They have these furtive movements. Burying the unborn child in the middle of the night in the back yard in a bag. It just, it just, it doesn't sound right.

O'Reilly: That's for sure. And apparently or at least the mothers knew of the burial - all of that, so that belies the fact that they couldn't tell the parents about the pregnancy. You know, if they know about the burial - I don't know, I don't know. You think you're gonna win this case and when does it begin?

SMITH: Yeah. The next pre-trial's up in March and I understand the defense, who's a civil rights attorney, is gonna file several motions.

O'Reilly: Right.

SMITH: But, you know, we wouldn't have brought this case forward if we didn't feel confident.

O'Reilly: Alright, counselor, we're gonna follow it because we think it's a very because we think it's a very interesting case and we'll see what happens. We appreciate your point of view and, once again, we appreciate counselor Massie comin' on last night givin' us her point of view as well.

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