(CN) – An Alabama district attorney said Wednesday she will not prosecute a woman who was indicted on a manslaughter charge after she lost her fetus when she was shot in the stomach during an altercation last year.
Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington said in a statement that she would dismiss the “disturbing and heart-breaking case” against 28-year-old Marshae Jones.
“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 on the manslaughter charge for which she was indicted by the grand jury,” Washington said.
Jones faced a manslaughter charge for instigating a fight in early December when she knew she was five months pregnant, according to the indictment dated May 1.
Ebony Jemison, 23, shot Jones in the stomach but the grand jury declined to indict Jemison because it was determined that she pulled the trigger in self-defense.
Washington said her decision to dismiss the case was not a criticism of the grand jury that reviewed hundreds of cases in April. Jones’ case was one brought to the grand jury by the Pleasant Grove Police Department.
“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,” Washington said. “But in the interest of all concerned, we are not prosecuting this case.”
The case came at a time when Alabama’s abortion policies have drawn national attention.
Voters decided in the 2018 midterm election to approve an amendment to the Alabama Constitution making it the policy of the state to recognize rights for the unborn.
In May, the Legislature passed a near-total ban on abortion that did not carve out exceptions for rape or incest, triggering a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union. That law is set to take effect in mid-November.
The ACLU praised the decision of district attorney in Jones’ case, arguing that the mother should not have been charged in the first place.
“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,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeff Robinson.
Eric Johnston, president of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition and author of Alabama’s recent abortion legislation, said the Jones baby “had rights and the law ignored them.” In 2006, state lawmakers passed the Brody Act, which recognized the personhood of an unborn child, regardless of viability, in cases involving assaults or homicides.
On Monday, Jones’ attorneys filed an eight-page motion to dismiss, arguing that the indictment brought against their client “is based on a novel legal theory not available or supported under Alabama law and completely unreasonable and unjust.”
Her attorneys at the Birmingham firm White Arnold and Dowd said Jones will move “forward with enormous gratitude” for the support she received. The law firm also said the decision by the district attorney would help Jones heal.
“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,” the firm said in a statement.