Manslaughter charges against an Alabama woman who was shot while pregnant were dropped on July 3 following national backlash, prosecutors announced.
Marshae Jones, 28, was five months pregnant when she got into a dispute with 23-year-old Ebony Jemison in December 2018. The two women were allegedly fighting over the fetus’ father outside of a Dollar General store in Birmingham, Alabama when Jemison fired at Jones.
Jemison was originally charged with manslaughter but her charge was dismissed after a grand jury failed to indict her. Prosecutors said that Jemison had acted in self-defense.
Investigators determined that Jones initiated the fight with Jemison and said that the “only true victim in this was the unborn baby.” In November, Alabama voters approved a state constitutional amendment that granted fetuses the same legal rights of a child who has been born.
Alabama is one of 38 states with fetal homicide laws and recognizes a fetus as a victim in cases of crimes against pregnant women. Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed a bill in May that outlawed abortion at every stage of pregnancy and criminalized doctors that provide abortions.
A grand jury hoped to hold someone accountable for the death of Jones’ unborn child, The New York Times reported. She was indicted and arrested by a Jefferson County grand jury on a manslaughter charge on June 26.
Her indictment and prosecution fell under the jurisdiction of the Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney’s Office. On July 3, Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneiece Washington announced that the charge had been dropped.
“This is truly a disturbing and heartbreaking case. An unborn child was tragically lost,” Washington told reporters, according to NPR. “There are no winners, only losers, in this sad ordeal.”
She continued: “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. I am hereby dismissing this case, and no further legal action will taken against Mrs. Jones on this matter.”
Washington’s announcement came after her office received a barrage of calls and messages, highlighting the injustice of arresting a woman who had been pregnant and shot but allowing her shooter to go free. Several women’s rights activists and pro-choice groups rallied around Jones and denounced her indictment.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama said the indictment was an attack on the basic human rights of Black women.
“This is another example of how Alabama is moving to criminalize pregnancy. Indeed, Alabama is one of the most dangerous places in the country for a Black woman trying to carry her pregnancy to term, and this prosecution is just one more attack on the basic human rights and dignity of Black women in our state,” ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Randall Marshall said in a statement.
Jones’ attorneys wrote in legal filings that the charges against their client were based on a “flawed and twisted rationale.”
“The State’s theory improperly expands on the concept of intent under established manslaughter law,” her attorneys wrote. “The Indictment does not allege that Ms. Jones had the initial intent to kill Ms. Jemison.”
Attorney Mark White called the charges “one of the scariest things I’ve seen in 45 years” in an interview with NPR. “This young woman lost the baby she was carrying. She was shot, almost mortally wounded.”
Jones’ attorneys later welcomed Washington’s decision to drop the charges against their client.
“We are gratified the District Attorney evaluated the matter and chose not to proceed with a case that was neither reasonable nor just,” White said in a statement cited by NPR. “With the dismissal of charges, the community of support that surrounded Marshae can now channel it’s immense passion and energy toward ensuring that what happened to Marshae won’t ever happen again.”
Reproductive rights advocates in Birmingham also welcomed the prosecutor’s decision, The New York Times reported. Shante Wolf-Sisson, founder of the health and wellness organization BLK Pearl, told the newspaper that the decision made her hopeful for women’s rights in the state. “We could use a lot of hope right now,” she added.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.