Manslaughter charges for woman who lost baby after being shot in stomach dismissed by prosecutors following outcry

Colin Drury

A woman indicted for manslaughter after losing her unborn baby when she was shot has had the charge dropped.

Marshae Jones, of Birmingham, Alabama, lost the foetus after being blasted in the stomach following a fight in December.

The 28-year-old was arrested last week after a grand jury decided she had caused the death by initiating the brawl while knowing she was five months pregnant.

But, following a global outcry, a Jefferson County district attorney announced the charges were being discontinued on Wednesday.

Lynneice Washington said: "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. There are no winners, only losers, in this sad ordeal.”

No further explanation was offered for the sudden change or any rationale given for how grand jurors returned the indictment in the first place.

Ms Jones’ lawyers said she was pleased with the decision and urged her supporters to now direct their energy to "ensuring that what happened to Marshae won't ever happen again".

They had previously called the charge "flawed and twisted", saying it “defies the most basic logic and analysis”.

The case came shortly after Alabama passed America’s most hard-line anti-abortion legislation.

The new laws, passed earlier this year, make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a crime punishable by life in prison for the provider. It makes no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

Officials denied Jones’ indictment had anything to do with the legislation but her case sparked outrage across the US and wider world among pro-choice campaigners and advocates for women's rights.

Many pointed out the charge was another clear example of the state attempting to punish women for so-called crimes related to their pregnancies.

Legal scholars said the arrest raised questions about what other scenarios – such as driving a car or swimming in a pool – could constitute putting a foetus in danger.

Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, welcomed the charges being dropped, saying the 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."

Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said she was pleased to see the case dismissed but noted it would be a mistake to see it as an outlier.

She said: “We hope there are no more cases like this in the future, but our experience in 40 years of cases suggests that we will see many more such misuses of the law in the name of foetal personhood in the future.”

Ms Jones’ attacker, 23-year-old Ebony Jemison, had manslaughter charges against her dismissed earlier this year. She herself had said she felt the indictment of her rival was unjust.