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