Ana Cardona is currently awaiting execution on Florida’s death row for the brutal abuse and murder of her three-year-old son. After her trial, the court found as fact that:
During an eighteen-month period . . . Cardona beat, choked, starved, confined, emotionally abused and systematically tortured Lazaro. The child spent much of the time tied to a bed, left in a bathtub with the hot or cold water running, or locked in a closet. To avoid changing Lazaro’s diaper for as long as possible, Cardona would wrap duct tape around the child’s diaper to hold in the excrement. Cardona blamed Lazaro for her descent “from riches to rags,” and referred to him as “bad birth.”
The court went on to explain that Cardona hit the child on the head with a baseball bat before abandoning him in the bushes near Miami Beach, where he died slowly over the course of the next four days before his disfigured body was found.
This Article first argues that the existence of infanticide in the United States reflects the extent to which women are not free to choose whether or not to become mothers, due to hidden cultural pressures and a lack of alternatives, and then offers an alternate framework for understanding motherhood. This argument does not intend to justify crimes of infanticide or to devalue the suffering of children; rather, it calls attention to the fact that women are socially and legally expected to have and raise their own children. By providing a theoretical framework for understanding the possibility that not all women choose to have children, this Article issues a call to reframe our conception of motherhood and to provide viable options for women who cannot or do not want to raise their own children. Through the application of a theory of suffering, this Article argues that the United States criminal justice system is remiss in prosecuting infanticidal mothers under standard homicide statutes and should rather adopt specific infanticide statutes that recognize the distinctions between infanticide and other homicides. While such statutes would not necessarily reflect diminished culpability for the criminal act, differentiating infanticide from other forms of murder could protect women from public vilification as “murderers”‘ and from lengthy, unpredictable sentences.