By Peter Szekely
(Reuters) – Attorneys on Monday urged an Alabama court to throw out a criminal charge against a woman whose foetus died after she was shot during a dispute, calling the state’s legal rationale “flawed and twisted” and the case unsupported by the law.
The woman, Marshae Jones, 28, was arrested on Wednesday after a grand jury indicted her for manslaughter, concluding that she had intentionally caused the termination of her pregnancy in its fifth month by provoking an argument.
The same Jefferson County grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the woman who shot Jones, Ebony Jemison, concluding that she acted in self defence during the Dec. 4 altercation in Pleasant Grove, just west of Birmingham.
The case is a test of a law in Alabama in which voters last November passed a constitutional amendment that gave foetuses the full legal rights and protections of people. The same principle prompted the state’s Republican-controlled state this year to enact a law banning abortion in all cases, including for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Jones’ lawyers argued that under the state’s theory that Jones intended to cause the death of her foetus, she would have had to have known that starting a fight would cause Jemison to shoot her in the stomach.
“It defies logic and reason to believe that Ms. Jones legal provocation was caused by her unborn child,” the team of lawyers headed by Birmingham Attorney Mark White wrote in their motion to the Jefferson County Circuit Criminal Court.
Jones’ lawyers did not directly cite last year’s Alabama constitutional amendment in their motion.
Further, Alabama law precludes the prosecution of “any woman with respect to her unborn child,” the motion said.
The Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney’s Office said in a statement last week that it was still considering whether “to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it.”
The office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Jones, who has no criminal history and is already the mother of a six-year-old, lost not only her unborn child but also her job and her house in a fire, according to the Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based advocacy group that provides financial assistance to women seeking abortions in the state.
Jones was released on bail on Thursday, according to jail records.
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and Susan Thomas)