Once again, Alabama is at the forefront of a nationwide debate over the rights of pregnant women.
Marshae Jones, a 27-year-old Birmingham woman, was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on a manslaughter charge. She was taken into custody on Wednesday.
Though Jones didn’t fire the shots that killed her unborn baby girl, authorities say she initiated the dispute that led to the gunfire. Police initially charged 23-year-old Ebony Jemison with manslaughter, but the charge against Jemison was dismissed after the grand jury failed to indict her.
BuzzFeed News spoke to Jemison, who believes that Jones’ manslaughter charge is unfair — even though she said Jones bears some responsibility for her actions.
“I don’t feel she should be charged with manslaughter because she didn’t go upon killing her baby herself,” Jemison said on Thursday. “But she should be charged with child endangerment or assault or something like that.”
“I feel that if the baby had to be counted as a person, I don’t feel [the grand jury] is wrong for indicting her because you initially put your child in danger,” Jemison said. “But me being a person, I don’t feel as if it’s fair for her to sit in jail after dealing with her losing her child situation.”
When asked if she had a message for Jones, Jemison said, “I would just say sorry and send my condolences. Because I know it’s not an easy situation to deal with. All I know is if I could go back and change the situation, I would.”
Local police argued that Jones deserved the blame not only for the shooting but also for not removing herself from the situation earlier. Pleasant Grove Police Lt. Danny Reid said that Jones allegedly “initiated and pressed the fight,” according to Al.com.
“Let’s not lose sight that the unborn baby is the victim here,’’ Reid said. “She had no choice in being brought unnecessarily into a fight where she was relying on her mother for protection.” Alabama is one of 38 states with a fetal homicide law that recognizes a fetus as a potential victim of a crime against a pregnant woman.
The indictment and prosecution is being handled by the Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney’s Office. However, the District Attorney’s Office issued a statement Thursday evening saying it hasn’t decided whether to prosecute Jones for manslaughter, a lesser charge — or not at all. Lynneice Washington, the district attorney in that office, could not be reached for comment.
Jefferson County is divided into two divisions and the Bessemer Cutoff covers the western portion of the county, including Pleasant Grove.