Some excellent news in the case of Marshae Jones, the black woman in Alabama who was charged with manslaughter in the death of her unborn child after she was shot in the stomach by another woman in an altercation at a store. Jones will not be prosecuted as the county DA has dropped the charges.
One week after her story drew national attention, Marshae Jones, the Alabama woman who faced criminal charges after a shooting caused her to miscarry, will not be prosecuted, the Alabama district attorney announced Wednesday.
“After viewing 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 on the manslaughter charge for which she was indicted by the grand jury,” Jefferson County District Attorney Lynneice Washington said at a press conference. “Therefore, I am dismissing this case and no further legal action will be taken against Ms. Jones in this matter.”
In recent days, Washington’s office faced heavy criticism for Jones’s indictment, and Jones’s lawyers had filed a motion to have the case dismissed.
”There are no winners, only losers in this sad ordeal,” Washington added.
At the end of June, Alabama news outlets reported that Jones, a 27-year-old Birmingham resident, had been taken into police custody after a grand jury indicted her on manslaughter charges for the death of her then-5-month-old fetus. Police argued that Jones had initiated a fight with 23-year-old Ebony Jemison in December and was directly responsible for the fact that Jemison fired a bullet that struck Jones in the stomach.
According to a report from Al.com, police initially charged Jemison with manslaughter over the shooting. But a jury declined to indict her, saying that Jones initiated the altercation and that Jemison was acting in self-defense when she shot at Jones. That same jury later indicted Jones, arguing that she “intentionally caused the death of her unborn baby by initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant.”
Local police also blamed Jones for the shooting. “Let’s not lose sight that the unborn baby is the victim here,” Pleasant Grove Police Lt. Danny Reid said shortly after the shooting. “She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection.”
The indictment was heavily criticized and immediately raised questions about why the woman who was shot was the one charged. Reproductive rights advocates argued that Jones’s story was a troubling example of the ways pregnant women of color are criminalized in states like Alabama, which has prosecuted hundreds of women for things like “chemical endangerment” while pregnant. These groups argued that many more pregnant women in the state might be punished in the wake of a recently passed law that bans most abortions in Alabama. The law is scheduled to go into effect in November.
A definite win for Jones and legal sanity, but I fear there will be far more women punished under state laws like this, and should the Supreme Court open the floodgates for states to regulate abortion out of legal existence, cases like this will become the norm, not the exception.