Yes, It Is Possible to Be Charged with Manslaughter If Your Baby Dies of SIDS

baby sleepin
Image via Flickr/ eperales
“The killing of one accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties, while in the prosecution of some felonious act.”

SIDS is a literal nightmare. It's a silent killer that only visits at night. Tons of people and tons of organizations, like the American SIDS Institute, say that they can reduce the risk of SIDS, but all they give you is a massive list of generic tips that mentions everything so that all of their bases are covered. Until we can figure out exactly what causes SIDS, thousands of parents will put their baby to bed at night with a feeling of apprehension.

Granted, you should follow every single one of the items on the SIDS-prevention list because, I mean, they were put on there for a reason, regardless of how insignificant that reason may appear. So for starters, follow what the American Association of Pediatrics suggests and always lay your baby on his or her back in a bed or on a surface that is firm and clear of loose sheets, blankets, or toys. 

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Store those somewhere in the quick-recall section of your brain so you don't get charged with murder of your child.

Yeah, that's right. I mean, if the threat of your baby dying of SIDS wasn't already problematic enough, you can actually be charged for the murder of a child if he or she dies of SIDS while in your care.

In 2014, Candice Semidey, a young woman from Virginia, put her 4-month-old baby, Jahari, down for a nap. In an article published by the Daily Beast, Brandy Zadrozny wrote that, according to Sergeant Jonathan Perok of the Prince William County Police department, Semidey fed and wrapped baby Jahari just before putting him down to sleep — not on a firm surface, as the AAP suggests, but on a “a makeshift bed that she had fashioned from a chair cushion and a blanket.”

The hardness of the bed wasn't even necessarily the most serious problem with what happened: Jahari was placed face-down onto the cushion and quietly suffocated to death as his mother slept in the next room.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that Semidey didn't do this on purpose. Generally speaking, mothers want nothing but safety and happiness for their children, so I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt. But because Jahari died under her care and (presumably) because of the way she put Jahari down for sleep, she was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Perok said, “These actions, however unintentional, were still deemed neglectful in accordance with the code section for felony murder, which states, ‘The killing of one accidentally, contrary to the intention of the parties, while in the prosecution of some felonious act.'”

So according to Virginia law, blatant neglect that results in death can be deemed manslaughter. No, she won't be going to prison for the rest of her life — it was unintentional — but I can't help but think that no punishment would atone for how Semidey feels about the death of her young child. 

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What are your thoughts on this? Does she deserve to go to jail? Is the possibility of jail time a worthy (additional) incentive for following the AAP's suggestions? I'm really curious about what you think. Let me know in the comments!

What do you think?

Yes, It Is Possible to Be Charged with Manslaughter If Your Baby Dies of SIDS

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

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8 comments

  1. amack says:

    This is not a case of SIDS. My first baby passed away due to SIDS at 6 weeks old. AAP suggestions are just that suggestions. They do not prevent SIDS because no one knows what causes it.

  2. Loni says:

    I have worked with many families, including several who lost children to SIDS. In one case, the mother was told repeatedly by hospital staff and myself not to co-sleep with her newborn. She argued that she had done it with her older two and they hadn’t died. I said to her, just because they were lucky, why take a chance and gamble this baby’s life? I was hoping she was being honest when she agreed it wasn’t worth taking a chance. Two days later I got the call. The baby suffocated while sleeping in her bed. It was ruled as SIDS. This mother knew better. We all know better. If you take a risk you have to be prepared for the consequences. Yes, there should be consequences for taking an innocent life due to your own stubbornness, laziness, or thinking you know better than the professionals. We need to protect the innocent who cannot protect themselves!

    • amack says:

      Did you know the US has a higher rate of SIDS than countries that promote co sleeping? If the death was ruled as SIDS the baby didn’t suffocate. By this standard a mother who takes her baby in the car and is hit by someone else should face charges because we all know that car accidents happen all the time.

  3. Sara says:

    I’m not sure how she didn’t know not to put him on his stomach. This is something they usually tell you in the hospital. On the other side of this I co sleep with the babies. The hospital warned me against this. However I have two other kids I did this with. They’re 6 and 10 and they’re fine. I have an almost 11 month old that I still co sleep with and she’s fine. Co sleeping supposedly can cause sids

  4. I believe a mother should be able to put their child to sleep anyway they please as long as they didn’t intend on killing them such as doing drugs or sleeping with on their own bed while on drugs or drunk.
    Because honestly I don’t believe hte sleep on back campaign anymore then I agree with much else put out these days.

    • Susan says:

      Yeah, because what do those dummies at the American Associates of Pediatrics know anyway? Although, I do remember recently reading an article about a baby who died while sleeping face down… I can’t quite remember where I read it though…

      • Jolana says:

        Sarcastic much? That’s not necessary. This mom f’ed up on so many levels. Wrapping the baby and putting him face down is ridiculous, the baby can’t turn their head to the side well enough. Add the soft surface to the mix and there you have it. My baby would only sleep face down & we tried everything, but we did it in the safest way possible.

  5. No, if the mother honestly didn’t intend or neglet…being distracted with drugs etc. then she should def not sit in jail! Her head & heart will burden her worse than any cell will & she doesn’t deserve that. I hope that she can find the ability to forgive herself, I couldn’t pretend to imagine how she feels

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