A former clinic owner was convicted Monday of second-degree murder for botching an illegal abortion, failing to call for help, and then trying to stuff the woman’s body into a car trunk to dump it in Tijuana.
Alicia Ruiz Hanna, 33, covered her face and began shaking and crying as the Orange County Superior Court jury returned its verdicts, also convicting her of performing illegal abortions. She faces 15 years to life in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 27.
Hanna was running a financially ailing clinic in Santa Ana when she began performing abortions herself to eliminate the middle man, the physician, to increase profits, according to the prosecution. Hanna has limited medical training and is not licensed to perform abortions.
On Jan. 19, 1993, Angela Nieto Sanchez, 27, came to her clinic for an abortion. As two of Sanchez’s children sat in the waiting room, she died on the examination table after reacting violently to an unknown drug injected by Hanna in preparation for the abortion, according to the prosecution.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Rick King told jurors that Sanchez did not have to die; a fire station staffed with medical emergency workers was less than one mile away. But Hanna admitted to jurors that she did not dial 911 because she feared being arrested for performing illegal abortions.
Deputy Public Defender Steve Biskar conceded that his client erred in practicing medicine without a license but asked jurors to convict his client on a lesser charge of manslaughter.
But jurors said outside of court they believed Hanna was a selfish businesswoman more interested in making money than her patients’ welfare.
“She knew the risks and she did it anyway,” juror Michelle Franks of Orange said.
Jury foreman Charles Buezis of Stanton said the panel “really didn’t have much difficulty with it. There really wasn’t a lot of sympathy for her.”
Jurors said they believe Hanna’s testimony did little to help her case, especially when she tried to blame the victim in part. She told jurors she believed Sanchez was already high on drugs when she arrived at the clinic, suggesting that may have caused the violent reaction.
Hanna also admitted repeatedly lying to authorities to cover up her own involvement in the death, but insisted to jurors that she was now telling the truth because she had “found God.”
“I’d say she was her own worst enemy,” said one juror, who declined to give her name.
Buezis said he hopes that Proposition 187, which would prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving government-funded medical services, would not drive them to clinics like Hanna’s.
“Maybe this will send a message to people doing this kind of thing,” Buezis said. “I hope so.”
Hanna testified that she tried desperately to revive Sanchez with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The clinic’s emergency equipment, such as the empty oxygen tank, was not operating. A clinic employee, who was a key prosecution witness, testified that Hanna hatched a plan to dump Sanchez’s body in Tijuana.
Hanna told Sanchez’s children in the waiting room that their mother had left the clinic. The children remained there most of the day until an uncle picked them up.
Sanchez’s frantic relatives searched the neighborhood for her mother and returned to the clinic later that night, hoping to find her. But Sanchez’s daughter, Maria, now 14, testified that she instead found Hanna trying to hoist Sanchez’s body into a car trunk.
Evidence at trial indicated that Hanna had performed numerous abortions. Following one botched abortion, the patient discovered months later that she was still pregnant.
Maria Sanchez wept during the court hearing and said outside of court the verdict was just, but does nothing to bring back her mother.