Ka Yang, the 34-year-old mother from Sacramento, California, has been convicted of cooking her one-month-old daughter in a microwave oven.
As a result, she is looking at 26-years-to-life, Yahoo! reports, despite the fact that she claims she did it while caught in an epileptic seizure and had no control over what she was doing.
The jury soundly rejected her argument that she placed the infant in her microwave for two-and-a-half to five minutes, causing “extensive thermal injuries.”
“Ms. Yang suffers from epilepsy. She had an epileptic seizure. It was not deliberate conduct,” said Linda Parisi, the attorney for Ka Yang.
Unfortunately, those five minutes resulted in the death of her child. Her final sentence will be handed down in December.
The murder reportedly occurred in 2011 when Ka Yang was 30-years-old.
As for the validity of her claim that she managed to take a seemingly deliberate action while in the throes of an epileptic seizure, here’s what Johns-Hopkins Medicine has to say.
There are different types of seizures that an epileptic can experience, and according to most definitions, it is unlikely that Ka Yang could have taken a deliberate action that lasted between two-and-ahalf and five minutes without realizing what she had done before the minimum period of time (two-and-a-half minutes) had lapsed.
Taking generalized seizures off the table — these affect both sides of the brain — the only possibility left is that Ka Yang could have undergone what is called a focal or partial seizure.
Focal or partial seizures are “when abnormal electrical brain function occurs in one or more areas of one side of the brain.”
Johns-Hopkins states that focal seizures can also be referred to as partial seizures.
“With focal seizures, particularly with complex focal seizures, a person may experience an aura, or premonition, before the seizure occurs. The most common aura involves feelings, such as deja vu, impending doom, fear, or euphoria. Visual changes, hearing abnormalities, or changes in the sense of smell can also be auras.”
Focal seizures can be broken down further into simple and complex. With simple seizures, “seizure activity is limited to an isolated muscle group, such as the fingers, or to larger muscles in the arms and legs.”
The victim of a simple focal seizure does not lose consciousness.
This leaves complex focal seizures, which are confined to an area of the brain controlling emotion and memory function.
In these types of seizures, consciousness is typically lost, with the person ceasing to be aware of what is going on around her.
The victim can appear to be awake, but they may demonstrate several “unusual behaviors.”
“These behaviors may range from gagging, lip smacking, running, screaming, crying, and/or laughing,” Johns-Hopkins notes, adding that when the person returns to consciousness, “he or she may complain of being tired or sleepy after the seizure.”
Ultimately, the jury did not buy that Ka Yang suffered from any of these types of seizures, at least not to the point that it was responsible for her cooking a one-month-old infant in the oven.
The case is ultimately reminiscent of the so-called “sleepwalking defense,” which has been used in a variety of different criminal cases (often unsuccessfully).
One of the most prominent attempts to invoke this defense occurred in 2001 with Californian Stephen Reitz, who was convicted of killing his lover, Eva Weinfurtner, during what was supposed to be a romantic getaway. Reitz, according to U.S. News and World Report, “smashed her head with a flowerpot, leaving shards in her scalp, dislocated her arm, punctured her with a plastic fork, fractured her wrist, ribs, jaw, facial bones, and skull, and, wielding a pocketknife, left three gaping stab wounds on the back of her neck.”
He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2004.
In the case of Ka Yang, do you think the jury made the right call, and what do you think is a fitting punishment?
[Image of Ka Yang via mugshot c/o CBS News]