Pregnant Alabama Woman Marshae Jones Will Not Be Tried for Manslaughter
UPDATE July 3rd: In a press conference, Bessemer County district attorney Lynniece Washington announced that Jones would not be prosecuted for manslaughter.
“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 on the manslaughter charge for which she was indicted by the grand jury,’’ Washington said. “Therefore, I am hereby dismissing this case, and no further legal action will be taken against Ms. Jones in this matter.”
Lawyers for Marshae Jones, the 27-year-old Alabama woman charged with manslaughter for the shooting death of her own fetus, have filed a motion in Alabama’s Jefferson County Circuit Court to have all charges against Jones dismissed.
“Using a flawed and twisted rationale, the State of Alabama has charged a new theory of criminal liability that does not lawfully exist,” Jones’ counsel wrote in the motion.
Jones, 27, was five months pregnant when she got in a fight with a woman named Ebony Jamison, 23, outside of a Dollar General store in Pleasant Grove, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. Jamison shot Jones in the stomach, killing her fetus.
“While everyday Ms. Jones relives the most tragic event in her life, the loss of her baby, Marlaysia Jones, she is now being forced by the State to fight an unprecedented attack that threatens to leave her six-year-old daughter without her mother,” the motion says.
“The prosecution of Ms. Jones is unjust and the Indictment is due to be dismissed.”
Although the shooting sent Jones to the hospital, authorities alleged that she was the aggressor in the fight, which led to a grand jury indicting her on one count of manslaughter. Jamison was initially charged with manslaughter, but the same grand jury declined to indict her on the grounds that she shot Jones in self-defense.
Jones was charged with manslaughter under the state’s fetal homicide laws, which defines a “person” as “a human being, including an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.” At least 38 states have fetal homicide laws on the books.
Such laws have been roundly criticized by reproductive rights advocates, who argue that they allow for the state to criminalize pregnant women and open the door to afford fetuses mote rights than pregnant women.
“It’s never been about saving pregnant women or saving pregnant people or the dignity of pregnancy or any of this other nonsense they say, or justice for murdered pregnant women,” Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, told Rolling Stone last week, in reference to the Jones case and fetal homicide laws in general. “This is just a backdoor run at Roe.”
Jones’ case has sparked national outcry, with advocates for reproductive rights criticizing state officials for holding Jones accountable for the death of her own fetus.
In response to the national outcry surrounding the case, Lynniece Washington, the district attorney for Jefferson County, Alabama, said that while her office intended to respect the decision of the grand jury to indict Jones, she had not yet officially decided whether to proceed with the manslaughter charges against her.
“Let me tell each and every one of you, this has been a tragedy. A child… a child, a helpless child is now dead. Was it avoidable? Absolutely. One hundred percent. However, that young lady has to live for the rest of her life thinking about her choices and decisions,” she told an audience during a talkback session following a performance of a play in Birmingham.
Jones was released on $50,000 bond on Thursday. She is expected to appear in court for arraignment July 9th, at which point the judge will decide whether to grant her attorneys’ motion to have the charges dismissed.