Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Michael Fletcher: A Simple Case of Murder

Fetal Protection Law

In response to the slaying of Leann Fletcher, who was pregnant at the time, the Michigan Legislature revised its penal code regarding assaults that result in the death of a fetus. When he was first arrested, Michael Fletcher was charged with the murder of his wife and the fetus she was carrying, but technicalities in the then-current state fetal protection law resulted in the charges against Fletcher resulting from his actions toward the fetus being dropped.

Fletcher led out after pretrial motions
Fletcher led out after pretrial motions

At the time of the crimes, in order to be charged with the murder of an unborn child, a person must cause the miscarriage or stillbirth of the baby. Since neither of those two elements occurred, Fletcher could not be charged with fetal murder. Leann did not miscarry, nor was her child expelled before her death.

Leann's family lobbied the legislature to amend the fetal protection law, and Sen. Bill Schuette, a Republican from northern Michigan, worked with pro-life and pro-choice groups to fashion a bill that would protect unborn children while at the same time protecting women who sought abortions and their doctors from being charged with a crime.

Under Michigan's new fetal protection law, any criminal action against a woman that results in the unwanted termination of a pregnancy is a felony, punishable by anywhere from two years (for reckless driving-related offenses) to life for premeditated murder.

The new law takes effect in June 2001.

Hannah Fletcher, Leann and Michael's daughter, has been legally adopted by Leann's parents, after the Fletcher family dropped its own attempt to adopt her. Details of visitation rights of the Fletchers have been sealed by the courts.

In other news regarding Michael Fletcher, the state bar automatically revoked Fletcher's law license in January, 2003.

Michael Fletcher in prison orange
Michael Fletcher in prison orange


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