By BLAKE PATERSON, Associated Press
BESSEMER, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama district attorney said Wednesday she is dropping the manslaughter charge against a woman who 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.
Jones was five months pregnant when 23-year-old Ebony Jemison shot her in the stomach during a December argument over the fetus’ father, authorities said.
Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but a Jefferson County grand jury declined to indict her after police said an investigation determined Jones started the fight, and Jemison ultimately fired in self-defense. Jones, 28, was indicted by the same grand jury and arrested.
But Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice O. Washington said Wednesday that she would not pursue the case.
“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,” Washington said, flanked by her chief assistant and local church leaders. “There are no winners, only losers, in this sad ordeal.”
The prosecutor did not take questions or explain the process that led to grand jurors returning the indictment to begin with.
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.”
The idea that Jones intentionally caused the death of her fetus by initiating the fight is a “tortured,” ”irrational” theory which “defies the most basic logic and analysis,” the filing asserts.
Alabama is one of dozens of states that have fetal homicide laws allowing criminal charges when fetuses are killed in violent acts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
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 raised questions about what other scenarios — such as driving a car or swimming in a pool — could constitute putting a fetus in danger.
In an emailed statement, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jeffery Robinson said Washington’s decision “represents precisely what we want to see in these critical moments: a prosecutor who is not afraid to use prosecutorial discretion and power to refuse to prosecute when the law and justice demands that charges should be dropped.”
Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said she’s pleased to see the case dismissed but noted it would be a mistake to see it as an outlier.
“We hope there are no more cases like this in the future, but our experience in 40 years of cases suggests that we will see many more such misuses of the law in the name of fetal personhood in the future,” Paltrow said.
The case arose after Alabama passed the nation’s most hardline anti-abortion legislation. The new law makes performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by 10 to 99 years or life in prison for the provider. The law makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk