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Opening Arguments

The verdict(s) is/are in

Two differfent victims, same set of circumstances, different verdict because of who one of the victims is. Sounds a lot like the justification used for hate-crimes legislation, doesn't it?

COLUMBUS, Ohio - An unusual verdict in the case of a former police officer accused of killing his pregnant lover opens up possible grounds for appeal if he's sentenced to death, some legal experts say.

After deliberations spanning four days, a jury convicted Bobby Cutts Jr. on Friday of murdering Jessie Davis. Jurors found him guilty of aggravated murder in the death of her nearly full-term fetus, a stronger charge that makes him eligible for the death penalty.

Aggravated murder includes intent to kill with prior calculation and design.

Victor Streib, a law professor at Ohio Northern University and an expert on the death penalty, said he questions the split decision.

"I think they (the mother and fetus) are a package, and you have to treat them the same way," Streib said. "Either they were both premeditated murders or not."

But they're not a "package." The whole point of fetal-homicide laws is that two lives are involved, especially in a case such as this in which the mother was only weeks away from delivering. Whether the jury members used sound legal reasoning is certainly debatable, but we can understand their instincts. As indisputably the most innocent victim, the unborn baby elicits the most sympathy.