While many in the country have raised eyebrows after an Alabama woman was indicted on manslaughter charges in the death of her unborn child after being shot in the stomach, Alabamians, specifically in the city of Pleasant Grove, don’t see the controversy.
According to the New York Times, in Pleasant Grove, the conversations are more focused on to what extent should Marshae Jones – the mother in question – be punished, not if she was to blame for the incident.
“In the state of Alabama, an unborn baby has the same rights as a living child,” Sharonda Hall, 38, who recently got her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice told the Times. “Most people agree with it.”
“You have to go by the law,” Forrest Brown, a retired musician said.
As the Times notes, last November, voters in Alabama passed an amendment to the state’s constitution recognizing the “sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children.”
Doubling down on this notion, more recently, back in May, the governor signed the strictest abortion ban in the nation into law in the state, without an exemption for rape or incest.
Jones, 27, was taken into custody last Wednesday following her indictment and posted bail the following day with help from her family and the Yellowhammer Fund, which is part of the National Network of Abortion Funds, helping women access abortion services.
The shooting stemmed from an altercation between herself and 23-year-old Ebony Jemison, who was originally charged with manslaughter but was able to walk free after the grand jury declined to indict her.
As the Times notes, Jones and Jemison started arguing over a male colleague. Jones was the one who initiated the confrontation. Jones was reportedly winning the fight and had Jemison pinned to her car when Jemison reached for a gun and shot Jones point blank in the stomach.
The fetus, which was hit by the bullet, died.
“The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,’’ Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid said at the time of the shooting. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”
The Times spoke to Mischelle Cagle, the forewoman of the grand jury, who said she didn’t know there was national outrage over the case, but emphasized that the jurors did their best to follow state law.
“You think certain things, but then when you look at the law, it’s different,” she said.
Meanwhile, the office of District Attorney Lynneice Washington said that there has not yet been a decision as to whether Jones’ case will go to trial, or if they will dismiss the case altogether, or pursue lesser charges.
“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case,” a statement from the DA’s office read, noting that a decision should come within the week. “We feel sympathy for the families involved, including Ms. Jones, who lost her unborn child.”
Jones’ attorney, Mark White, told the Times that his client was “devastated” by the incident, another blow suffered after she also lost her job and lost her house, which burned down in an unrelated incident.
The threat of facing prosecution, which would then put her in prison away from her 6-year-old daughter, only exacerbates the stress factors, White said.
“If you look at the five top stress factors that humans can experience, she may be the only person we’ve encountered that got all five simultaneously,” Mr. White said.
“By Monday morning, we will file a motion to dismiss that will show this indictment to be illegal, inappropriate and unprecedented,” White told the Times. “The motion will also give examples of the additional dangers this type of prosecution presents for the rule of law.”