UPDATE: New twist in case of pregnant woman shot in stomach and charged in unborn baby's death
By Holly Yan and Madeline Holcombe
July 03 2019
An Alabama district attorney said Wednesday she is dropping charges against a woman who was indicted for manslaughter after she lost her fetus when she was shot during a fight.
Marshae Jones was arrested last week after a grand jury concluded she intentionally caused the death of her fetus by initiating a fight, knowing she was pregnant.
“After reviewing the facts of this case and the applicable state law, I have determined that it is not in the best interest of justice to pursue prosecution of Ms. Jones,” District Attorney Lynneice O. Washington.
“There are no winners, only losers, in this sad ordeal.”
Lawyers representing Jones said they were pleased with Washington’s decision and urged Jones’ supporters to direct their energy to “ensuring that what happened to Marshae won’t ever happen again.”
Jones’ lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Monday morning, arguing that in issuing the charges, the state used a “flawed and twisted rationale” that “ignores the law and ignores reason.”
Jones’ arrest sparked outrage across the country, with advocates for women’s rights calling it another attempt to charge women for crimes related to their pregnancies.
Legal scholars said the arrest raises questions about what other scenarios — such as driving a car or swimming in a pool — could constitute putting a fetus in danger.
Once again, Alabama is at the forefront of a nationwide debate over the rights of pregnant women.
This time, the controversy stems from a pregnant woman who was shot in the stomach and is now charged with manslaughter for the death of her unborn child.
A Jefferson County grand jury indicted Marshae Jones, 27, based on her alleged role in starting a fight that led to the gunfire, CNN affiliate WBMA reported.
Jones was five months pregnant in December when she got into a fight with another woman outside a Dollar General store in Pleasant Grove, just west of Birmingham, the station said.
Authorities say the dispute involved the baby's father, AL.com reported.
"It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby," Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid told AL.com shortly after the shooting.
He said the fight caused the other woman, Ebony Jemison, to react and defend herself. He would not describe Jones, the pregnant woman, as a shooting victim.
"The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby," Reid told AL.com.
But that characterization incensed critics who say Alabama keeps prioritizing fetuses over women.
Last month, the state passed the country's strictest abortion law, which makes virtually all abortions illegal. The law says doctors who perform illegal abortions could face up to 99 years in prison.
The Yellowhammer Fund, which helps women who are unable to afford an abortion or the costs of travel, said Jones' indictment is ridiculous.
"Marshae Jones is being charged with manslaughter for being pregnant and getting shot while engaging in an altercation with a person who had a gun," Executive Director Amanda Reyes said in a statement.
"The state of Alabama has proven yet again that the moment a person becomes pregnant their sole responsibility is to produce a live, healthy baby and that it considers any action a pregnant person takes that might impede in that live birth to be a criminal act."
According to Alabama law, manslaughter happens when:
- A person recklessly causes the death of another person; or
- A person causes the death of another person under circumstances that would constitute murder, "except that he or she causes the death due to a sudden heat of passion caused by provocation recognized by law, and before a reasonable time for the passion to cool and for reason to reassert itself."
Manslaughter is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Jemison, the accused shooter, initially faced a charge of manslaughter, AL.com reported. But a grand jury declined to indict the 23-year-old.
Neither the Pleasant Grove Police Department nor the Jefferson County district attorney's office have responded to CNN's requests for comment.
This story originally appeared on 7News.com.au