CEDAR CITY – Supporters and family of a Cedar City midwife on trial for manslaughter burst into silent tears and quiet gasps Thursday after hearing the jury’s verdict – guilty as charged.
The reaction came after hearing the decision of the seven-member jury that deliberated for approximately four hours after sitting in on Vickie Dawn Sorensen’s trial for six days.
Jury members found the 56-year-old guilty on the second-degree manslaughter charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years.
In addition, she was found guilty for one count of reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor. Sorensen had been charged with two counts of reckless endangerment but was found not guilty on the second charge.
The case stems from 2014 when Sorensen was arrested in connection with the 2012 death of a premature infant of a pregnancy involving twins.
Prosecuting attorney Mike Edwards maintained the babies should have been delivered in a hospital that night on Dec. 18, 2012. Instead, he argued, Sorensen initiated the delivery of the first child, who was two months early, in her birth center without the proper skills or equipment necessary to deliver twins.
In his closing arguments, Edwards stressed that multiple witnesses had implied Sorensen knew the risks that night, including the likelihood the babies would have respiratory distress. Her decision was nothing short of negligent, he argued.
Edwards told the jury that more than anything Sorensen’s recklessness was apparent in her refusal to transport the mother to Dixie Regional Medical Center or Cedar City Hospital (then named Valley View Medical Center) even after hearing her complain of contractions at 33 weeks pregnant – seven weeks before her due date.
“Because equipment wasn’t available and the defendant failed to transport (the mother) sooner, (the victim) died,” Edwards argued.
Defense attorney Doug Terry, however, argued that Sorensen did everything she could to resuscitate the baby.
Terry maintained his client was anything but negligent and, in fact, had made a plan to slow the contractions down that night and get the mother to the hospital as quickly as possible given the winter weather outside the birth center.
“She had a plan, but (the victim) put a stop to that,” he said, arguing the mother did not want to go to the hospital.
The mother was transported to the Cedar City hospital by ambulance while still in labor. The first child was pronounced dead shortly after. The second baby was delivered by cesarean section and transported to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George.
Sorensen waived her right to be sentenced within 45 days moving the sentencing scheduling to Jan. 10, 2017.
Judge James L. Shumate allowed the defendant to remain out of jail until then as her $50,000 bail was previously exonerated. She was ordered not to practice midwifery prior to sentencing.
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