Steven Lillie, a Florida father charged with murder for forgetting his infant daughter for over five hours in a hot car, is fighting to have his murder charges dismissed, USA Today is reporting. Defense attorneys of the 33-year-old man are querying the constitutionality of a state statute and how it relates to the case.
Lillie was charged with third-degree felony murder, felony voluntary manslaughter and one felony count of injury to a child under age 6, and leaving her unsupervised. This was in relation to the death of his 9-month-old daughter, Anna Lillie in 2014.
Steven Lillie had opened his black Dodge pickup truck around 4:45 p.m. only to discover that his infant daughter was at the back of the vehicle. Steven was supposed to have dropped Anna at her grandmother’s house en route to work, but he forgot.
The Florida father had driven his daughter to his workplace, the Fraternal Order of Police telemarketing, and left her in the car. The parking lot was outside a strip mall and had no shade. Authorities say the heat inside the truck would have spiked to around 100 degrees. Police Lieutenant Donna Seyferth described the soaring temperatures as “brutal.”
When Steven Lillie discovered his daughter in the backseat, his screams alerted his co-workers who rushed to help. In an emergency call, the father told a dispatcher his daughter “had been in the car for hours…I absolutely forgot about her. She’s not alive.”
The child did not survive.
A change in Steven Lillie’s routine had made him to forget that his daughter was in the backseat. He only remembered the girl when a family member called him to ask about her. Unfortunately, by the time he rushed out to his vehicle, it was too late. Witnesses say the grief-stricken father collapsed when he made the awful discovery.
Steven Lillie is looking at a maximum 15-year sentence for the hot car death of his daughter.
However, his lawyers argue that it was a tragic mistake and no criminal intent was involved.
“Mr. Lillie and his family are disappointed that the State has elected to file formal charges against him for the accidental death of his daughter Anna on June 16th 2014. This family has suffered an inconceivable loss, compounded by his almost immediate arrest.”
The lawyers have asked for the manslaughter and murder charges against Steven Lillie to be dismissed.
“There is no evidence in this case that Steven Lillie intentionally LEFT his daughter in his motor vehicle. Rather all the evidence indicates Mr. Lillie FORGOT his daughter was in the vehicle.”
In 1985, a law passed by the Florida Legislature deemed leaving a child inside a car for more than 15 minutes a noncriminal traffic violation punishable by a fine. By 2007, the law was changed to allow the state to charge potential offenders with third-degree felony.
A conviction for third-degree murder could earn Steven Lillie a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. This conviction does not require the state to prove any intent to harm. However, it does need evidence to prove that the death was facilitated by another felony which would have caused grave injury to the child left in the hot car.
Alternatively, a voluntary manslaughter conviction requires the state to prove that a person committed unintentional homicide due to recklessness. The state does not need to show that the death was caused by another felonious act. A voluntary manslaughter conviction attracts a lower sentence.
Julia Lynch, assistant state attorney for the prosecution, said the state was under obligation to impose child-protection statutes and protect the most defenseless citizens, including 9-month-old Anna.
“We recognize that we are charging someone for a tragedy, but if a person causes a tragedy and this leads to the unlawful taking of a life, then they have to take responsibility for it. The laws are there to protect children, and we’re enforcing them.”
[Featured Image by Bjoern Wylezich/Shutterstock]