Postpartum Father Acquitted of Smothering Baby

Mark Bruton-Young got away with murder this week. Relying on a postpartum defence, he left the courthouse hand-in hand with his wife Clare, smiling, a free man, despite smothering his 6 month-old daughter to death.

Is male postpartum depression a legitimate illness? Should it be a defence to murder?

A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed 43 studies involving 28,000 men who were followed from the time of their partner’s first trimester to the baby’s first birthday.

Ten percent of the fathers in the studies suffered from depression related to the birth of their child, manifesting symptoms of anger, irritability and feelings of hopelessness.

The researchers discovered that the reasons for male postpartum depression included lack of sleep, a radical change in lifestyle, feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for their new role and the stress of supporting a partner who is also depressed.

In many countries, including Canada, mothers who kill their babies are not charged with murder but with infanticide, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Postpartum depression in mothers has a biological basis including the stress of the birthing process and hormonal issues relating to lactation. Obviously these factors do not apply to paternal postpartum.

The death of baby Harriet and the acquittal of her 37 year-old father can only be assessed by examining the circumstances of the case.

Harriet was an only child whose birth was not planned. The Bruton-Young’s had active business, social and recreational schedules.

Police discovered that Mr. Bruton-Young, a successful architect, had googled a variety of incriminating phrases prior to Harriet’s death including “death by suffocation”, “buried alive”, “punched in the stomach”, “poisoned by anti-freeze”, “ingesting feces”, and “signs of crib death”.

As well, a note written by him was found in his home. It read “I want her out of the equation”.

Mr. Bruton-Young testified that his internet searches were done because he was worried about his daughter’s safety and wanted to obtain information to protect her health. He agreed that he became obsessed with the information he obtained, but that he would never deliberately kill his child.

The jury bought it: hook, line and sinker and after 18 hours of deliberation acquitted him of murder.

How sad that Harriet’s life had no value to her father, her mother or the criminal justice system.

There is something terribly wrong with this.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

4 thoughts on “Postpartum Father Acquitted of Smothering Baby

  1. wow i find it amazing to see that you read the news papers and came to a different conclusion than a panel of informed jurers…i think you must be right because you are so informed by the “sun” or other such tabloids….I think there is something terribly wring with this!

  2. My opinion has nothing to do with the newspaper reports on this case. My view is that if a person is found criminally insane they may be acquitted of a crime and committed to a mental facility and not a jail. However, if every depressed person was deemed not responsible for their actions, our society would quickly degenerate into lawlessness.

    By the way, juries don’t always get it right. Remember the OJ Simpson jury?

    Thanks for your participation on this issue.

  3. Great blog! Hey Betty, you missed the point entirely. Lawdiva has clearly identified the real issue here. Whether or not the jury got it right or wrong is just an aside. The fact that a father who is simply depressed because his wife is or even if he falls into the 10 percentile as described should be found criminally insane at the time of the offence. Murdering one’s defenceless babe in arms, notwithstanding planning and clearly preparing to assassinate the poor little soul requires a just society to hold those actions accountable. The accountability may refer to reduced sentencing such as in Canada with female offenders under the Infanticide section of the Criminal Code of Canada or some other manner. To allow a man to murder a child, claim depression and walk freely out of the courtroom to carry on with his preferred lifestyle is outrageous. Perhaps he should have kept his small head where it belongs, in his pants.l

  4. I think that you are forgetting an awful lot of the evidence presented in this trial not at least the fact that there was never any medical evidence at all to back the claims of the police and the CPS. The total lack medically of any explanation for harriets death despite the two best paedeatric pathologists in the country performing two seperate autopsies and nurmerous toxicology tests and expert analysis. Not one person could explain harriets death. Also both Mark & Clare have gone on to have another healthy baby.

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