A New Zealand jury has allowed a man to walk free even though he had admitted that he smothered his severely brain-damaged five- month-old daughter. The child had an incurable condition called lissencephaly and her brain was no larger than that of a 13-week-old foetus. In the evening of the day when doctors finally diagnosed her condition, the father “snapped” and killed the child.
The case has aroused immense controversy in New Zealand. The Commissioner for Children’s Office commented that the verdict gave a clear statement children with disabilities are not OK and don’t have the right to life.” Scott Optican, a law lecturer at the University of Auckland, said that it was clear that the unidentified man had clearly intended to kill his daughter and had admitted this to the police. A more “legally rational resolution”, he commented, would have been a guilty verdict to some degree of murder, with mitigating circumstances taken into consideration by the sentencing judge.
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