A judge dropped murder charges against a woman who delivered a stillborn baby after using methamphetamine Thursday, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Chelsea Becker spent two years in a California jail on charges of allegedly causing the death of her unborn baby by consuming fatal drugs. The Kings County Superior Court Judge Robert Shane Burns ruled that prosecutors did not provide enough evidence to prove that Becker intentionally killed her baby, according to AP.
Jaqueline Goodman, Becker’s legal counsel, said California’s homicide law should not apply to pregnant women.
“We are disappointed that a dismissal on these grounds does not foreclose the possibility that a misguided prosecutor may attempt a similar prosecution in the future. As a result, we are left to play a sort of whack-a-mole, ever vigilant that we find and prevent any similar efforts to charge a woman with murder for the outcome of her pregnancy,” Goodman said.
Under California’s Penal Code Section 187, homicide is the “unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.” A mother can’t be charged for the death of a fetus if the mother consents or if a physician conducts the act. (RELATED: Trans Woman Identified As Male On Medical Chart, Delivers Stillborn Child)
California Supreme Court allows for murder charges against woman who used meth before delivering stillborn fetus https://t.co/NmSlR3bFNC Wait a minute…She is an addict and should have received care, the fetus should have been aborted safely and she should be in a hospital.
— Lilith Cumswell(™) Fully vaccinated (@Cums_well) December 26, 2020
Xavier Bacerra, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, filed a court brief urging for the charges to be dropped arguing that the homicide law was never intended to apply to pregnant women, according to AP. The California Supreme Court had allowed charges to be brought forth saying the homicide law can apply to a stillborn, MSN reported.
A top assistant district attorney of Kings County, Phil Esbenshade, said he believes there is enough evidence to go to trial and that a judge formerly ruled there was sufficient evidence to press charges against Becker. He added that the charges have no connection to reproductive rights and aim to stop women from abusing their unborn children with drug use.
“The Judge who presided over that preliminary examination, upon hearing that evidence and considering arguments from both sides, did find such sufficient evidence existed. Judge Burns apparently disagrees with that finding,” Esbenshade told AP.
Becker’s attorneys backed the judge’s decision that there is was insufficient evidence that the mother intentionally used meth to kill her baby and therefore, she should not be charged in her child’s death. They said that charging a pregnant woman for murder bars her from prenatal care, AP reported.
Becker had given birth to two children who both tested positive for meth, according to AP. In September 2019 the recorded cause of her child’s death was toxic levels of meth. Her defense, however, argued that the child had three unrecorded infections that could have led to the child’s death, AP reported.