Pregnant woman who ingested rat poison fights murder, feticide charges

Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemHomicideLaws and LegislationAmerican Civil Liberties Union

The Indiana Court of Appeals is trying to decide whether a pregnant woman who attempted suicide should face criminal charges, including murder.
The case, which is now generating national attention from civil liberties groups and mental health advocacy organizations, began when Bei Bei Shuai swallowed rat poison nearly a year ago in an attempt to commit suicide. The, then-pregnant 34-year-old didn't die. She underwent an emergency C-section at an Anderson hospital but the baby died four days later.

Since then, Shuai has been in jail without bond, facing murder and attempted feticide charges. Now, she's gained the support of nearly 80 organizations, including the ACLU.

On Tuesday, her attorney tried to convince the State Court of Appeals that the charges should be thrown out.
"This prosecution of a pregnant woman for the most heinous crime on the books is ludicrous," said Linda Pence, attorney for Shuai. "It's just wrong and it's not supported by Indiana's strong centuries of legislative and judicial practice that recognized the sanctity and how they needed to protect the pregnant woman."
Prosecutors argue that the law protects Shuai's fetus. That's because at 33 weeks along the baby could have survived outside the womb. The prosecution also argues that Shuai's suicide note incriminates her.
"She said, 'I am taking this baby, the one you named Crystal with me,'" said Judge Melissa May. "Doesn't that show an intent?"
"As the record reflects over and over again, it is never, ever her intention to live and let the baby die," Pence said in response.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller said the Court of Appeals isn't the place for the argument.
"This case generates strong opinions but the state's position adheres to the longstanding principle that a jury must weigh any facts, even those that go to the defendant's intent, and therefore the trial court is where this case belongs," Zoeller said in a statement.
The defense disagrees, saying the judges need to step in to protect others.
"We know that suicide is one of the leading causes of death for a pregnant woman," Pence said. "Does that mean every time a pregnant woman thinks about hurting herself, that she's going to be subject to a criminal investigation? Does that mean that any time a pregnant woman does something to harm herself she's going to be criminally investigated? If she has drinks? If she smokes?"

The Court of Appeals will issue its ruling at a later date.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Crime, Law and JusticeJustice SystemHomicideLaws and LegislationAmerican Civil Liberties Union