Home > crime > Breast milk murder charge tossed

Breast milk murder charge tossed

A prosecutors attempt to send message of warning to breast-feeding mothers who use methamphetamine has been thrown out of Humboldt County Superior Court.

Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin had hoped the charge and prosecution would give a “meth-addicted mother pause before she breast-feeds.

But Judge Bruce Watson found that “no evidence was presented at the case’s preliminary hearing to establish that [Maggie Jean] Wortman knew she was endangering her infant son’s life when she breastfed him after allegedly smoking methamphetamine,” according to the Times-Standard.

Wortman’s 6-week old son died of “methamphetamine toxicity.”

McLaughlin told the T-S he may decide re-file the murder charge.

  1. December 22, 2011 at 9:00 am
  2. me
    December 22, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Yes Heraldo, the baby did die and Walmart pulled the product from all it’s shelves before anyone told them to. It was an Enfamil product. American made and sold through just about every retailer in the country.

    At this time there is no connection between the formula and the bacterial infection that caused the death.

    It sounds to me like they did more than most companies would do in this position.

  3. Thorstein Veblen
    December 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Wow, she gets out of the murder charge because she was too tweaked to realize it might hurt the baby? Wonder what the lesser charge will be.

  4. Anonymous
    December 22, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Translation: Mothers have no legal responsibility for understanding any measure of appropriate care for their children. Is this a judge who enjoys an elected position? Astounding.

  5. December 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Remember, in Humboldt County, judges rarely, if ever, face a challenger when it comes time for re-election.

  6. Anonymous
    December 22, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Let’s hear it for motherhood and the sanctity of biological urges.

  7. tra
    December 22, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Apparently the idea behind the murder charge was to provide a deterrent for other mothers to refrain from breast feeding if they are using methamphetamine or other drugs.

    But if having their infant die isn’t enough of a deterrent factor, it seems unlikely to me that legal charges would tip the scales.

    If, on the other hand, the idea is not deterrence, but rather retribution (making the mother suffer more, if that’s even possible), then we should at least be honest about that, rather than pretending it’s about deterrence.

  8. December 22, 2011 at 10:32 am

    tra was right on–a deterrent–retrbution???Neither or the above.

  9. Eric Kirk
    December 22, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Yes Heraldo, the baby did die and Walmart pulled the product from all it’s shelves before anyone told them to.

    Wow! What a great bunch of guys!

  10. Plain Jane
    December 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

    This message is that tweakers can kill their babies with methamphetamine-laced breast milk and claim of ignorance to escape responsibility. It seems unimaginable that a woman with a history of drug abuse and 2 pregnancies wasn’t warned about the risks of using meth while pregnant or breastfeeding by her medical providers at some point.

  11. Anonymous
    December 22, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I was taught that ignorance of the law is not a defense. So, saying you didn’t know it was illegal gets you off the hook? Holy Jeebus, once defense lawyers find out, our streets will be filled with criminals.

  12. December 22, 2011 at 11:25 am


  13. Jack Sherman
    December 22, 2011 at 11:32 am

    In her groundbreaking book “Living Downstream” researcher and scientist Sandra Steingraber describes how “the most toxic food on Earth is mother’s milk”.

    Samples taken from women around the world contain cocktails of PCB’s, Dioxins, and heavy metals. Many are traceable to the individual factories that produced them.

    This is another example of a justice system fully focused on the least among us, while America’s biggest corporate criminal/welfare-cheaters freely distribute known carcinogens as if the world were their personal play pen.

    Instead of marching around the CR track every year, our local victims of the cancer epidemic and skyrocketing breast-cancer cases, should be occupying the White House and their community’s courthouses demanding media reporting and justice.

  14. tra
    December 22, 2011 at 11:32 am


    I think I understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t find it “unimaginable” that she wasn’t fully aware of the risk that her methamphetamine use posed to her breastfeeding infant. Apparently the judge didn’t find it unimaginable either. The fact is, there are a surprising number of people walking around out there who lack some pretty basic information about the way things work, information that you and I and most people can have a hard time imagining that anyone would not know. I don’t know if this mother was one of those people or not, but I don’t find it unimaginable that she was.

    If the case is re-filed and the prosecution provides clear and convincing evidence that she was fully aware of the risk of a deadly dose of meth being delivered through her breast milk (such as health care providers testifying that they had warned her of that risk), then perhaps the prosecution will have a better chance of convicting her. Though I’m still not sure that an actual “murder” charge would be appropriate, or would stick.

    I’m not at all saying that there shouldn’t be any charges and shouldn’t be any legal consequences, but unless there’s some evidence that she deliberately set out to kill her child by feeding the child with meth-laced breastmilk, I think the possibility of convicting her of “murder” was always a longshot. Perhaps they will be able to re-file with more realistic charges.

  15. Anonymous
    December 22, 2011 at 11:48 am

    The mom obvioiusly did not intend to hurt her child. She is an addict and this is such a sad story.

  16. Decline To State
    December 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    This case was un-winnable from its onset. It’s been tried elsewhere in the state and country and has been repeadly

    I really like our DA’s office, but sometimes wonder at the legal battles they choose to fight (another questionable example is their bringing those trimmers up on felony charges). I think dismissing this case was the proper thing to do…no matter how negligent the mother was (and I most certainly don’t condone her behavior), this was the wrong way to go.

  17. December 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    “Why our narcotics laws have failed: (1) Heroin is an addicting drug.
    Why our narcotics laws have failed: (2) The economics of the black market.

    An addict who shifts from black-market heroin to morphine by prescription moves into another world. Suppose, for example, that be has been paying $20 a day for 40 milligrams of heroin mixed with 360 milligrams of hazardous adulterants and contaminants. Armed with a prescription, he can walk into almost any neighborhood pharmacy and secure pure morphine, U.S.P., safely diluted in an appropriate vehicle, and sterilely packaged, at the full retail price of $5 per dram or less. He thus pays about five cents for 40 milligrams of morphine. If heroin were stocked in pharmacies, he could buy 40 milligrams of it, too, on prescription, for about a nickel-as British addicts do.

    The question is obvious: Why shouldn’t the addict be encouraged to secure his opiates legally, on prescription, in pure form, for a nickel a day, rather than be forced by federal and state laws to spend $20 per day in the heroin black market?”

    That dead child is a product of a sick drug policy.

  18. Anonymous
    December 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Well done Consumer!

    But how are they going to continue to grind the face of the poor if they’re offering outs to lethal addiction, homelessness, unemployment, uninsured illness, ignorance, etc….

    Our entire predator economy would collapse!

  19. Eric Kirk
    December 22, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    This is very sad, but I agree with the ruling. The law cannot remedy everything that happens in life.

  20. Eric Kirk
    December 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I was taught that ignorance of the law is not a defense.

    You were taught right, except that ignorance of the facts which determine the law is a defense. So, for instance, if you see someone drop a hundred dollar bill and walk away unknowingly, and you take it for yourself, you are guilty of theft even if you believe that the law is on your side (“finders keepers”). However, if you did not see the person drop it, you are not guilty of theft even if the owner is nearby. Ignorance of whether taking the dollar knowing that the object belongs to the person nearby is no defense. Ignorance of whether the owner is nearby the object is effectively abandoned is a defense, because you are unaware of the fact of the proximity of the owner which is an element of the crime.

    Of note, you may still be liable for conversion or wrongful taking in a civil matter. Ignorance of fact is generally not a defense to a tort even if it’s a defense to a crime.

  21. Eric Kirk
    December 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    So to apply the rule here. If there was a specific law which made it illegal to take certain drugs while breastfeeding, her ignorance of that law would not be a defense. But her ignorance of the fact that taking the drug endangered the baby is a defense.

  22. me
    December 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Eric Kirk says:
    December 22, 2011 at 10:42 am
    Yes Heraldo, the baby did die and Walmart pulled the product from all it’s shelves before anyone told them to.

    Wow! What a great bunch of guys!

    I was simply making the point that this would never have been mentioned if the product was sold at a locally owned grocer in Lebanon MO. I believe Heraldo only mentioned it in because it was the big bad wolf,Walmart.

  23. Steak n Eggs
    December 22, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    In the court of public opiinion I support the verdict too. If she ever does clean up, her past will haunt her for life worse than any temporary incarceration.

  24. Anonymous
    December 27, 2011 at 8:06 am

    15 to life is a “temporary” incarceration?

    This woman is a true lowlife. If she was that far addicted she was very likely smoking meth during her pregnancy! And who knows what that would do to the unborn cild! What about the father ?! Does he bear any responibility?

  25. December 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Anon 8:06 The Iron Fist is sometimes more expensive and less
    productive as the Velvet Glove, show a scintilla of compassion,
    tis the season.

    While you insist on more severe approach, let me remind you-
    the cost- in California is $142.42 per day.

    Do we really need another prison to satisfy your lust for discipline.
    We know better.

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