Lawyers say fetal death charges ‘unjust,’ motion to dismiss
(CNN) — Attorneys representing Marshae Jones, the pregnant woman indicted in the death of her unborn child after being shot in the abdomen, have filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss all charges against their client.
Jones’ attorneys say the charges are “completely unreasonable and unjust” and based on a “novel legal theory not available or supported under Alabama law,” according to the motion filed in Alabama Circuit Court on Monday.
“Our client is a very fragile person who has been subjected to unmitigated abuse,” Mark White, lead attorney for Jones, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Monday. Two days after Jones was shot, law enforcement visited her in the hospital, spending no more than 15 minutes with her, White said.
“That is the last time anyone from law enforcement or anyone associated with prosecuting this case spoke to our client until last Wednesday, when they asked her to come to the police station,” said White. She arrived with her 6-year-old daughter in tow, he said. “They put the cuffs on her, locked her up and set bond at 50,000 dollars.”
Last Thursday, a Jefferson County grand jury indicted Jones, 27, on a manslaughter charge, which is a Class B felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Jones was five months pregnant on December 4, 2018, when she got into a fight with a woman outside a Dollar General store in Pleasant Grove, just west of Birmingham, CNN affiliate WBMA 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 would not describe Jones, the pregnant woman, as a shooting victim. Instead, he said the fight caused the other woman, Ebony Jemison, to react and defend herself. Though Jemison, 23, was originally charged with murder and attempted murder, a grand jury has since dismissed those charges, AL.com reported.
While his own investigation continues, White said there was “an argument” and a previous dispute between the women. “Our client was unarmed,” he said.
According to the new motion filed by Jones’ attorneys, Alabama law does not permit the prosecution of a woman for manslaughter relating to the death of her unborn child. The law firm of White Arnold & Dowd in Birmingham is representing Jones.
Jones did not fire a gun, the motion states. Yet, Alabama has charged Jones with “intending to cause the death of her unborn child” because she allegedly initiated a fight with another person “knowing she was five months pregnant,” according to the motion.
White told Keilar on Monday that “This idea that a victim can be criminally charged having been shot and having absolutely no intention of the child being injured or killed is, as you might expect, not a violation of the law.”
The indictment has “illegally” created “a new crime” of “transferred intent manslaughter,” according to the motion filed by Jones’ attorneys.
“The unfortunate death of Ms. Jones’ unborn child was not the natural and probable result of Ms. Jones initiating a fight, assuming that is what happened in this instance; it was the natural and probable consequence of Ms. Jemison shooting the pregnant Ms. Jones in the abdomen,” according to the motion.
The indictment may or may not lead to a prosecution, according to a statement last week from the Jefferson County District Attorney Bessemer Division’s office.
“While the Grand Jury has had its say, our office is in the process of evaluating this case and has not yet made a determination about whether to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it,” Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington said in the statement. “We will announce our decision only after all due diligence has been performed.”
The state is using a “flawed and twisted rationale” in pursuing any indictment of Jones, according to her attorneys.
“While everyday Ms. Jones relives the most tragic event in her life … 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 new motion states. “The prosecution of Ms. Jones is unjust and the Indictment is due to be dismissed.”