Alabama woman Marshae Jones faces manslaughter charge after death of fetus

PHOTO: Marshae Jones is pictured in an undated booking photo released by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office.PlayJefferson County Sheriff's Office via AP
WATCH Woman charged with murder after she was shot in the stomach, losing unborn child

After Marshae Jones was shot in the stomach, she lost her pregnancy.

Now, a grand jury has indicted her for manslaughter in the death of her unborn fetus, while declining to hand up a criminal indictment against Ebony Jemison -- the woman who shot her during a scuffle between the two women.

Despite the grand jury indictment. prosecutors in Jefferson County, Alabama insisted this week that they had not yet made a decision on whether to charge Jones with manslaughter.

Still, the highly-unusual proceedings have sparked outrage across a state where this year, the governor signed into law the most restrictive state abortion ban in the nation.

In a statement issued by the Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney's office said that the grand jury had included in its conclusion that the fault in the incident rested entirely with Jones, who was five months pregnant at the time.

"The grand jury, based on the facts presented, determined that Ms. Jemison acted in self-defense and did not warrant charges against her, and that Ms. Jones should face charges for her actions resulting in the death of her unborn child."

In May, Alabama's governor signed into law a ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, without exceptions for rape or incest. The only exception made under the law applies to situations where the life of the mother is endangered by her pregnancy. The law immediately prompted a legal challenge and has not taken effect.

Prosecutors insisted that "the new law played no role in the consideration of the Grand Jury" in Jones' case.

PHOTO: Marshae Jones, 27, of Birmingham, Ala., was shot outside a Dollar General store in Birmingham on Dec. 4, 2018. WBMA
Marshae Jones, 27, of Birmingham, Ala., was shot outside a Dollar General store in Birmingham on Dec. 4, 2018.

Abortion rights groups took a different view of the case.

In a joint statement, Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood Southeast said that the case represented the "criminalization of black women" and the refusal to give them justice.

"As a Black woman, despite being physically harmed and losing her pregnancy, the state does not recognize Marshae as a victim — only her fetus," the statement said. "With Alabama’s recent abortion ban, we will continue to see people of color being charged for their reproductive decisions and outcomes."

PHOTO: Marshae Jones is pictured in an undated booking photo released by the Jefferson County Sheriffs Office. Jefferson County Sheriffs Office via AP
Marshae Jones is pictured in an undated booking photo released by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

A clerk at the Jefferson County circuit clerk's office said that a grand jury had indicted Jones on a single felony charge of manslaughter and that the victim in the case was "the unborn child." The clerk declined to identify herself by name. and told a reporter from ABC News that "the majority of the information about this case is not being released over the phone."

PHOTO: Marshae Jones, 27, of Birmingham, Ala., was shot outside a Dollar General store in Birmingham on Dec. 4, 2018. WBMA
Marshae Jones, 27, of Birmingham, Ala., was shot outside a Dollar General store in Birmingham on Dec. 4, 2018.

A deputy at the Jefferson County jail said that Jones had been held at the facility and since released on $50,000 bond, and confirmed that Jones had been booked on a single manslaughter charge.

As of Thursday, prosecutors in the Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney were still evaluating the choices facing them in such an unlikely criminal proceeding.

"The fact that this tragedy was 100 percent preventable makes this case even more disheartening," the statement said. "While the Grand Jury has had its say, our office is in the process of evaluating this case and has not yet made a determination about whether to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it."

ABC News was not immediately able to make contact with representatives for either Jones or Jemison.