FARGO — Jurors found Ginny Rose Lubitz guilty of murder Monday, Jan. 13, in the bathtub drowning of her newborn son.
Gary Ripplinger, the jury's foreman, told The Forum the process of reaching a verdict was painstaking, not only for the legal responsibility, but grasping the applicable meanings behind legal terms in making the unanimous decision.
“It was very difficult,” Ripplinger said after the trial. “We had to go through a lot of the evidence. I was very impressed with the state and the defense.”
If the jury had not found Lubitz guilty of murder, they could have found her guilty of lesser crimes: manslaughter or negligent homicide. The jury, comprised of mostly women, also did not find Lubitz was under extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the drowning, which was a legal option for the jury that would have resulted in a reduction of her punishment.
“We believe that this was the correct verdict,” prosecutor Leah Viste said. “It’s been a long time in the making. This is one situation when there is not a winner. It’s just sad.”
Defense attorney, Kevin McCabe, declined to comment after the trial. A pre-sentencing investigation will be done before Lubitz's sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled. Lubitz, who's in custody at the Cass County Jail, faces a maximum of life in prison without the chance of parole.
Before jury deliberations started, District Judge John Irby excused two alternates from the 14-member jury, leaving 12 jurors to decide the case. Deliberations began about 1 p.m. Monday, and the jury reached a verdict nearly four hours later.
Lubitz, 37, did not testify in her own defense during the trial that started Tuesday, Jan. 7. Though, she previously told authorities she could not remember events from the death of her newborn son on May 5, 2018.
She told authorities she got into the bathtub before noon on that day, and didn't leave the bathroom for about nine hours. She said her last memories were of cutting her son's umbilical cord after a quick birth that may have occurred around 3 p.m., and then trying to dial 911. She could recall no details of the ordeal until after she had surgery at Sanford Medical Center to remove her placenta.
During closing arguments, the prosecution told jurors that the medical complications Lubitz faced after giving birth foiled her plans of secretly killing her newborn baby. Her placenta was not expelled after birth, which caused massive bleeding and could have led to her death, doctors testified during the trial.
More coverage of Ginny Lubitz's murder trial:
Day 1 of testimony: Friends testify in trial of mother charged with drowning newborn in Fargo
The prosecution argued that, during the final months of her pregnancy, Lubitz knew she was pregnant, she kept her condition from her friends, and did not do anything to prepare for the birth because she planned to kill the child. Online searches for at-home abortions Lubitz made months before May 5, 2018, supported this, the prosecution said.
“It was her hope that nobody would find out what she did,” Viste said. “This is tragic. This is beyond tragic.
“Homeless, pregnant and overwhelmed, the defendant lived a life of instability. She considered to have an abortion, but could never get the money to try and do that. So, she ignored the problem… until she could ignore it no more.
“And then on May 5, 2018, Baby Boy Lubitz was born, and then killed by his mother. Frankly, the state believes it was murder, that it was intentional, it was knowing, or that it was extreme indifference to human life.”
McCabe, an attorney from Dickinson, N.D., said that because Lubitz was alone in the bathroom of a friend's Fargo home during the delivery, nobody but her can know what happened. Lubitz has claimed since the birth that she does not recall events after she cut the child’s umbilical cord.
"Ms. Viste stated better than I think I could have: 'unemployed, pregnant, overwhelmed,'" McCabe said during his closing argument. ”The state is speculating, and speculation equals reasonable doubt. They can’t prove it. Poor choices due to economic hardship, and unfortunately they led to the death of her newborn child.”
During the trial, a medical examiner testified that she concluded the baby drowned, but was unable to determine whether it was a homicide or an accident.
During closing arguments, McCabe tried to cast doubt on the prosecution’s focus on the timeline of events. McCabe also emphasized that not even Lubitz’s friends knew whether Lubitz was truly pregnant before the birth occurred, and that police detectives are trained to ask specific questions seeking the answer they want to further their cases.
“But they don’t have a clue,” McCabe said, reminding jurors of the video they watched showing Lubitz's interview with detectives. "There are a lot of things that came out in that video, but every time they ask a question pertaining to time ... Ms. Lubitz stays with her consistent statement of 'I don’t remember.'"
Viste focused mostly on Lubitz’s web searches in her closing arguments. Viste said Lubitz showed cognizance with her web searches, and tried to cover up her lies by changing her story.
"One of the great inconsistencies here is that she said she tried to call 911," Viste said. "Everything in that bathroom was a bloody mess, but her phone was clean, if you listen to the testimony of Kelly McIntyre," one of Lubitz's friends who discovered her in the bathroom after the birth.
"How could that phone be clean if she reached for that phone after cutting her umbilical cord? She looked up how to cut an umbilical cord prior to the birth, prior to the mess,” Viste said.
“Ginny Lubitz lived a chaotic lifestyle that hopefully most people will never know,” Viste said. “But you only get to go so far, and once you cross that line, you cross that line. That line was crossed here."
"She was desperate and acted out of desperation," Viste said. "This baby was intended to be aborted all along, but she didn't have money, she was living house to house, she was using methamphetamine. She tested positive for methamphetamine, and the baby tested positive for methamphetamine.
“This baby was born alive, this baby should be alive.”