NC Senate approves Lily's Law

By a unanimous vote, the state Senate has approved a measure that would make injuring an unborn child murder if the child dies from the injuries after birth.

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State Sen. Rick Gunn, R-District 24
Laura Leslie

The state Senate has approved a measure that would allow murder charges to be brought against someone who injures a child in utero if the child dies of those injuries after birth.

Senate Bill 117, called "Lily's Law," is named after Lillian, the daughter of Danna Fitzgerald of Mebane. Fitzgerald was 27 weeks pregnant when her then-estranged husband shot her in the abdomen with a .45-caliber handgun in 2008.

Sponsor Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, said Fitzgerald was held hostage for 12 hours, "pregnant, bleeding... until she finally pleaded that she would lie and tell authorities it was an accident."

Fitzgerald survived the shooting. Her child, Lily, was born, but died of the injuries she sustained.  

A jury found her ex-husband guilty of murder, but he appealed, saying state law didn't cover the circumstance.

The NC Court of Appeals sided with the state in a ruling earlier this year. Fitzgerald's ex-husband is now serving life without parole for Lily's murder.

"But the case was a first impression case for North Carolina," Fitzgerald said, "so getting a conviction was an uphill battle."

In 2011, state lawmakers passed "Ethan's Law," which recognizes an unborn child as a second victim in the assault or murder of a pregnant woman. But it applies only to unborn children, not to those who die after birth because of injuries sustained in the womb.

Sen. Shirley Randleman, R-Wilkes, called it a "tragic loophole."

The bill passed 50-0 with no debate. 

Gunn had to fight back tears as he thanked his fellow lawmakers for their votes.

"It’s a tough bill. It’s a bill that’s righting a wrong," Gunn said, recounting how Fitzgerald asked him for the law, telling him she wanted Lily's life "to mean something."

Fitzgerald was in the gallery for the vote.

The bill now goes to the House.

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