Lawyers for Marshae Jones, the Alabama woman charged with manslaughter after her unborn baby was shot and killed in utero, filed a motion to dismiss the case on Monday morning, calling the indictment against her “unreasonable, unfounded, and unjust.”
High-profile Alabama defense attorney Mark White took up Jones’ case, the Montgomery Advertiser reports, and issued a statement on Monday.
“It is simply unconscionable to prosecute a shooting victim for losing her baby as a result of an unforseeable [sic] injury,” said White, of White, Arnold & Dowd, the firm representing Jones. “The charges against Marshae are based on a flawed and contorted theory of criminal liability that simply does not exist under the law.”
White has asked for the manslaughter charge against Jones to be permanently dismissed.
Police arrested Jones last week after a Jefferson County grand jury indicted her in April for manslaughter in the death of her unborn daughter. The 27-year-old was shot by another woman, 23-year-old Ebony Jemison after the two got into a fight in a Dollar General parking lot last December. Speaking to BuzzFeed last week, Jemison said she fired her gun as a “warning shot” when a brawl broke out between Jones and Jemison and their respective friend groups. She fired her gun toward the ground, she said, and claimed she didn’t know that Jones had been shot until police later showed up at her door.
Jones was five months pregnant at the time; doctors could not save her fetus. Jemison said she feels the manslaughter charge handed down against Jones is unfair.
The news of Jones’ arrest provoked outrage nationwide, with many pointing to Jones’ case as an example of how the state criminalizes black women and their bodies.
As the Advertiser points out, the indictment might also be invalid, as it seems to conflict with Alabama’s criminal code:
Though the code does include “fetal homicide” language, which defines an “unborn child in utero” as a human being, regardless of viability, the code also states that the prosecution of “any woman with respect to her unborn child” should not be permitted under criminal homicide charges like manslaughter. Montgomery-based criminal defense attorney Andrew Skier, who has no ties to the case, said it appeared “whoever indicted this case didn’t read this statute.”
Over the weekend, Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington made her first public comments about the case, giving an emotional response to the backlash she’s received about her office’s handling of it.
Washington told a crowd at Boutwell Auditorium in Birmingham that she had been away with her husband on a trip to the Dominican Republic when news of the indictment broke.
“There was a barrage of insults—desecration of my integrity, my character, my name—all the while I was in the Dominican Republic,” she said, according to AL.com. “All the while my name was being desecrated across this…this nation.
“This decision came by the grand jury; it did not come by this D.A.,” she continued.
“There was no special convening of a grand jury to address this matter. This matter went along with about 399 other cases during a one-week span.”
Washington, who is the first black woman to serve as district attorney in the state’s history, also left open the possibility that the DA’s office could dismiss the charges.
“I’m gonna respect the decision of the grand jury. But understand, as district attorney, I have the discretion and power to do what I please,” Washington said, before returning back to the scathing criticism she received after the case made national news.
“For those of you who called my office, and disrupted, cursed, disrespected, because I was not present—I was not in the state, shame, shame on you,” Washington told the mostly black audience. “But I took an oath to serve. I am a black woman in black skin. So, don’t tell me how I don’t appreciate the sensitivity of a woman and the rights of women.”
A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office released a statement last Thursday saying the office had yet to make a determination on how to proceed with Jones’ case, “whether to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it.
“We will take a thorough look at all the facts provided, the applicable laws, and reach a decision that we believe will lead to an outcome that is the most just for all the parties involved.”