A district attorney in Alabama has dropped all of the charges against Marshae Jones, who was charged with manslaughter after she was shot during an altercation, causing her fetus to die in utero.
Jefferson County District Attorney Lynneice Washington dismissed the case against Jones on Wednesday, according to ABC 33/40 News and The Associated Press.
“As I have previously stated, this is truly a disturbing and heartbreaking case. An unborn child was tragically lost, and families on both sides of this matter have suffered,’’ Washington said during a press conference announcing her decision. “Nothing we do today or in the future will change that reality.”
“The issue before us is whether it’s appropriate to try to hold someone legally culpable for the actions that led to the death of the unborn child,’’ she said. “There are no winners, only losers, in this sad ordeal.”
A grand jury in Jefferson County indicted Jones, 28, last week on a manslaughter charge. It claimed she was at fault for provoking the fight in December, while she was five months pregnant.
During the confrontation, which was reportedly over the father of the fetus, Ebony Jemison, 23, shot Jones in the stomach. Jemison was charged with manslaughter, but the grand jury declined to indict her after investigators said she acted in self-defense, according to AP.
In response to the case’s dismissal, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director Jeff Robinson said in a statement to HuffPost that Jones “should not have been charged to begin with.”
“The DA’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,” Robinson said.
Jones’ attorneys filed a motion on Monday to dismiss the charges. Her attorneys said Wednesday in a statement that the case was “neither reasonable nor just.”
“The District Attorney’s decision will help Marshae continue to heal from this
tragic event and work to rebuild her life in a positive and productive way,” Jones’ attorneys said. “With the dismissal of charges, the community of support that surrounded Marshae can now channel its immense passion and energy toward ensuring that what happened to Marshae won’t ever happen again.”
Jones’ attorney Mark White criticized the grand jury’s decision to indict Jones. In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser, White argued that Jones was not called to testify before the grand jury before she was indicted for manslaughter, which could carry sentencing of up to 20 years in prison.
Jones’ case highlights the debate over legal “fetal personhood,” a concept that treats fetuses in utero as individual people protected under the U.S. Constitution. As HuffPost’s Melissa Jeltsen reported Wednesday, Alabama is one of 38 states in the U.S. that allows charges when a fetus is killed under a fetal homicide law.
While Jones’ case was dismissed, Washington defended the grand jury’s indictment on Wednesday.
“The citizens took the evidence presented them by the Pleasant Grove Police Department and made what they believed to be a reasonable decision to indict Ms. Jones,” Washington said. “The members of the grand jury took to heart that the life of an unborn child was violently ended and believed someone should be held accountable. But in the interests of all concerned, we are not prosecuting the case.”
This story has been updated with comment from Lynneice Washington, Mark White and Jeff Robinson.
Melissa Jeltsen contributed to this report.