SAN FRANCISCO – A California county hopes to turn a confessed killer into a pitchwoman in an effort to reduce the number of abandoned babies.
Joanne de la Cruz, 25, admits she smothered her newborn six years ago and left him in a Dumpster. She eventually told her doctor, who in turn told the police, but the baby's body was never recovered.
Now the Santa Cruz County district attorney's office is offering to reduce her possible jail time if she'll tell her story in public service announcements. As part of the deal, de la Cruz would also be promoting a state law that allows mothers to hand over unwanted babies to hospitals, legally, with no questions asked.
The county is resorting to this extreme measure because few women have been taking advantage of the program.
Not surprisingly, the plan to make de la Cruz a pitchwoman has its opponents.
"I think that the value of life has been really reduced when a person who strangles their child gets less time than you would for killing a pet," said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
If a judge allows the district attorney's plan to go through, de la Cruz will get little or no jail time. Legal experts say the case could be difficult to prosecute with only a confession and no body, and that, in the eyes of the state, turning de la Cruz into a pitchwoman might be the best possible outcome.
De la Cruz was expected to enter a guilty plea in court on Friday, but the judge won't have to make a decision on the DA's proposal until sentencing, according to Stan Goldman, a legal editor for Fox News.
"The prosecutor in this case may have her own agenda," added Goldman. "If she is, in fact, in charge of publicizing this new law in this area, she may see a golden opportunity from her point of view.
"Whether she's lost sight of some of the other goals of the law against killing babies, that's another question."