Purvi Patel, the Granger woman whose feticide conviction was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals last month, may soon walk free after the state chose not to appeal the case to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Sentencing guidelines suggest Patel could be released by the end of September. The latest news brings closer the conclusion of a case that drew national headlines and sparked an intense reaction among both anti-abortion activists and those who feared authorities could use the state’s feticide law to punish women for their own abortions.
The Indiana attorney general’s office and Patel’s lead attorney, Stanford University law professor Lawrence Marshall, confirmed Monday’s deadline passed without either side asking the state high court to take up the case.
Marshall said he believed the Supreme Court would have affirmed the appellate court’s ruling, which held in part that the state legislature never intended for the feticide law to be applied to women for their own illegal abortions. But Marshall said his focus was to end Patel’s legal fight as soon as possible.
“We are pleased the state did not seek review, and that’s not because we felt the opinion was vulnerable — quite the contrary,” Marshall said. “We want to get her out, and had we sought review that would have delayed the process considerably, so we chose not to do that, reflecting a desire to move on.”
Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said officials consulted St. Joseph County prosecutors before deciding an appeal would “not be productive” and that ending the case was the most just outcome.
“All those confronted here with very difficult and emotional facts — including the police investigators, prosecutors, trial court and jurors — are to be commended,” Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement, “and we believe justice has been served.”
In its July ruling, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals overturned Patel’s convictions on child neglect causing death, a Class A felony at the time of her arrest, and feticide, a Class C felony. The panel ordered St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Hurley to resentence Patel on a lower-level Class D felony child neglect charge.
The maximum sentence for a Class D felony is three years. Based on the day-for-day credit for prison time that would have been applied at Patel’s March 30, 2015 sentencing, along with several days of credit for jail time served, her latest possible release date could come before the end of September.
Patel was arrested in July 2013, after she came to an emergency room for severe bleeding and police found her premature baby in a dumpster near Moe’s Southwest Grill, the eatery her family owned in Granger.
Prosecutors said Patel illegally tried to induce her own abortion by taking drugs she bought online from Hong Kong. When her baby was born alive, they alleged, she failed to get medical help and let the infant boy die before placing him in the trash bin.
In February 2015, a jury found Patel guilty of both charges, and Hurley sentenced her the next month to serve a total of 20 years in prison. With day-for-day credit, she was originally projected for release in March 2025.
Patel’s appellate lawyers, Marshall and Indiana University law professor Joel Schumm, argued that prosecutors improperly applied the feticide law; that they failed to prove Patel knew her baby was born alive; and that they failed to prove the baby could have survived if Patel had called for help.
The appeals panel agreed that the state improperly applied the feticide statute and failed to prove Patel’s inaction caused the baby’s death after he was born. But the judges ruled that prosecutors proved Patel knew the baby was born alive and committed neglect.
Without a review by the Supreme Court, the appellate court’s opinion could be finalized within a week and a half, Marshall said. At that point, Patel’s lawyers would seek a re-sentencing in St. Joseph County as soon as possible, he said.
Patel has been incarcerated at the maximum-security Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis, according to prison records. Marshall said he spoke with Patel by phone Tuesday morning, but he declined to discuss her reaction to the news that she could soon go free, citing attorney-client privilege.