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Defense: Death Of Fetus Was Abortion, Not Murder

HASTINGS, Minn. (WCCO) -- When an Apple Valley man goes on trial next Monday for murdering his pregnant wife, he'll be facing two counts of homicide. But now his defense attorney filed a motion arguing the death of the fetus was unlawful abortion, not murder.

Margorie Holland was 15 weeks pregnant when she was found dead last March inside her Apple Valley townhome. Her husband, Roger, is accused of strangling her and trying to make it appear as if his wife fell down a staircase.

Roger Holland was subsequently charged with two counts of murder and will stand trial in Dakota County next week. But before jurors hear any testimony in the case, Holland's defense attorney wants the charges dropped.

"We're trying to be very respectful and I want to remind everyone that we're talking about the loss of a woman and her fetus. We understand how sensitive an issue this is," defense attorney Marsh Halberg said.

Halberg acknowledges he is walking a fine line between being sensitive to the abortion debate while at the same time assuring equal protection for his client.

Because Margorie was pregnant, Roger Holland is charged with two counts of murder. But Halberg contends that under Minnesota law, the death of the unviable fetus should be considered as "unlawful abortion" and not charged as murder of an unborn child.

"When a woman is carrying a fetus and that woman dies, all her rights die with her. There aren't two persons, there is one person," Halberg said.

That distinction was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling. In the Holland case, the 15-week-old fetus is considered "unviable" and therefore not a "person" under law.

"This is an extremely sad and tragic event," Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said when the case was charged out.

Backstrom wouldn't discuss the case this close to trial or the reason prosecutors elected to charge Holland with the double murders. Earlier, Backstrom said that by interchanging the two state laws would essentially devalue the life of the unborn.

The case is set to be heard on Oct. 28.

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