California Supreme Court allows for murder charges against woman who used meth before delivering stillborn fetus

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  texan1211  •  3 weeks ago  •  12 comments

By:   Jessica Schladebeck (MSN)

California Supreme Court allows for murder charges against woman who used meth before delivering stillborn fetus
A California woman whose drug-use authorities have said caused her fetus to be stillborn can be prosecuted on murder charges, the state's Supreme Court has ruled.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



California Supreme Court allows for murder charges against woman who used meth before delivering stillborn fetus

A California woman whose drug-use authorities have said resulted in the stillbirth of her fetus can be prosecuted on murder charges, the state's Supreme Court has ruled.

Chelsea Becker has been in jail since she delivered her stillborn fetus in 2019, with bail set at $2 million. According to a statement from the Hanford Police Department last year, the coroner's office in Kings County decided to rule the fetus' death a homicide due to toxic levels of methamphetamine uncovered in its system.

Becker, who had been more than eight months pregnant, at the time also admitted to officers that "she used methamphetamine while she was most recently pregnant as late as three days prior to giving birth to the stillborn fetus."

© Provided by New York Daily News Chelsea Becker

Chelsea Becker

The 26-year-old's legal team has since argued there is a lack of evidence proving Becker's drug use resulted in the loss of the pregnancy.

The charges against her have sparked legal battles as well as criticism from those who believe that addiction is a disease, and that people should not be punished for it.

Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who was recently named President-elect Joe Biden's choice to lead the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter to justices on Wednesday said fear of prosecution could prevent pregnant women from seeking addiction services. It could also spark extra scrutiny from law enforcement on miscarriages and stillbirths, he added.

Philip Esbenshade, executive assistant to Kings County Dist. Atty. Keith Fagundes, on the other hand, argued that the law allows for a murder charge when there is "reckless or indifferent unlawful conduct of a mother that results in the unlawful death of her fetus."

"This is not a case about abortion nor women's reproductive rights," he told the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday. "This is a case about a person who did specific acts that resulted in the death of a viable fetus."

The 1970 California law allowing a murder charge does not say whether the pregnant woman herself can be charged. It does however, list circumstances that would bar prosecution, including legal abortion, medical intervention to save the woman's life, or any act that was "solicited, aided, abetted or consented to by the mother of the fetus."


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Texan1211
1  seeder  Texan1211    3 weeks ago

Sounds as though someone overstepped.

"The 1970 California law allowing a murder charge does not say whether the pregnant woman herself can be charged. It does however, list circumstances that would bar prosecution, including legal abortion, medical intervention to save the woman's life, or any act that was "solicited, aided, abetted or consented to by the mother of the fetus."

Sounds to me the mother "solicited, aided, abetted, or consented".

 
 
 
Suz
2  Suz    3 weeks ago

So, because the baby didn't die from an abortion but from meth, she can be charged for murder?  

Isn't this a tad hypocritical?   

Do they know for a fact she wanted the baby at all? 

Had the baby lived, do they realize he/she would be raised in a house of meth-heads?

 
 
 
Texan1211
2.1  seeder  Texan1211  replied to  Suz @2    3 weeks ago
So, because the baby didn't die from an abortion but from meth, she can be charged for murder?

Makes me wonder what law the prosecutor and California Supreme Court used in this case. Seems like the mother did indeed, "solicited, aided, abetted, or consented", so why is she being charged with anything?

 
 
 
Texan1211
3  seeder  Texan1211    3 weeks ago

Why is California, of all places, limiting a woman's choice?

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Texan1211 @3    3 weeks ago

Choice has to do with whether or not a woman wants a pregnancy. She obviously wanted the pregnancy. The issue is, did she commit murder?

Oddly enough, I witness a similar issue when I gave birth to my girls. My roommate post-delivery was a woman from the upper east side. My girls were premies so they were not in the room with me, but her baby boy was. She kept going in and out of the bathroom, but I thought she was trying to go (an issue for women after delivery), but I also notice that her baby seemed very agitated and had a tremor. The nurse noticed the same thing and mentioned it to the mother. After a few hours passed, they took the baby for a "check-up", but what I found out when I came back to my room from visiting with my girls and saw the mother being arrested, was that she was using coke all night and she passed the coke through her breast milk and now the baby was on coke. The cops talked to me a bit to see if I had seen anything in the room but I hadn't other than her going to the bathroom a lot.

I am not sure if using meth during pregnancy results in death, but it will result in a hooked baby for sure. 

 
 
 
Texan1211
3.1.1  seeder  Texan1211  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1    3 weeks ago
Choice has to do with whether or not a woman wants a pregnancy. She obviously wanted the pregnancy. The issue is, did she commit murder?

The case can be made that she didn't want the baby, and chose meth as way to rid herself of the pregnancy.

Murder might be hard to prove. The baby was never born alive, so it is hard to say she murdered anyone.

The argument could be made that she just used a different drug to abort the fetus. Obviously not the drug most would have chosen, but the end result is the same.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
3.1.2  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Texan1211 @3.1.1    3 weeks ago
The argument could be made that she just used a different drug to abort the fetus. Obviously not the drug most would have chosen, but the end result is the same.

That would have to be known as a side effect and it's not true. In fact, here is an article that proves that babies are born on meth, but their brains are affected. 

So I doubt she used thinking it would kill her baby. In fact, the baby could have just been born still born for no known reason. 

 
 
 
Texan1211
3.1.3  seeder  Texan1211  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @3.1.2    3 weeks ago
So I doubt she used thinking it would kill her baby. In fact, the baby could have just been born still born for no known reason. 

So why are they charging her with anything?

 
 
 
Gordy327
3.1.4  Gordy327  replied to  Texan1211 @3.1.3    3 weeks ago

She should not be charged with murder based on the current circumstances. An autopsy would be necessary to prove fetal demise was specifically caused by meth. Also, the law is just ambiguous enough to allow maternal consent to end the pregnancy. Or she could claim she didn't know using meth would result in a stillbirth nor intended that to be the outcome. A murder charge seems to be a knee jerk reaction.

 
 
 
Texan1211
3.1.5  seeder  Texan1211  replied to  Gordy327 @3.1.4    3 weeks ago

Seems like a whole lot of overreach on the prosecution's part.

 
 
 
Gordy327
3.1.6  Gordy327  replied to  Texan1211 @3.1.5    3 weeks ago

Possibly.  I can see the type of argument the prosecutor is trying to make. But I doubt it'll be strong enough to make a murder charge stick.

 
 
 
Tacos!
4  Tacos!    3 weeks ago

My understanding is that the Court has simply said the defendant has failed to make a prima facie showing that the prosecution is defective on its face. I think that's wrong, and contradicts California statutes and case law, but it's not the final word on her case.

I think ultimately any murder conviction will not stand, but I think it's odd that the Supreme Court is allowing the charge to go forward for the reason stated above. They seem to be allowing the lower court to proceed with the case and then they expect to examine it on appeal.

That's easy for the judges. It's not so easy for a woman who already has problems in life, will not benefit from rotting in jail, and undoubtedly can't afford to pay the best attorneys, especially through the appeal process. This will take years.

As a general proposition, such a prosecution and conviction - if allowed to stand - would set a precedent that would allow for more than one absurd slippery slope. 

First, let's say you can establish that the fetus died from meth, and the woman should have known better. We're holding a person criminally responsible (to the point of being jailed for life - or worse) for failing to overcome a drug addiction. In every other context in California, a drug addict gets treatment. It's a sickness, not a crime. So are we going to start imprisoning addicts again? How about alcoholic women? Or women addicted to nicotine?

Second, we're willing to prosecute under a theory of depraved heart murder because a woman didn't take good care of herself while pregnant? It might seem reasonable to some that giving in to a meth addiction is obviously bad for a developing fetus, but what about other health choices? What if the woman drinks some wine? Smokes cigarettes? What is she just eats junk food? Or doesn't exercise? What if she fails to take her vitamins? 

Carrying a pregnancy successfully to term is still not guaranteed even under ideal circumstances. Can we say for sure that the meth would have killed any fetus? Or all of them? Maybe most other babies would have survived this woman's addiction. How would we ever know? And if we can't know, is it fair to prosecute in this particular case?

Once you start going down the path of prosecuting a woman for not being as healthy as she could be in a pregnancy, where will you logically be able to draw a line between criminal behavior and acceptable?

This is not good law or good lawyering. It seems to me we're dealing with a prosecutor that has a personal political agenda regarding abortion. 

 
 
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