Lawyers want 'unjust' charge dropped for Marshae Jones, who lost pregnancy after being shot

Marshae Jones was indicted by a grand jury in May.

July 1, 2019, 2:17 PM

Attorneys for an Alabama woman facing a manslaughter count in the miscarriage of her fetus that resulted from being shot during a fight filed court papers seeking to get the charge tossed, calling the indictment "completely unreasonable and unjust."

Lawyers for Marshae Jones, 27, filed the motion Monday in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

"Using flawed and twisted rationale, the State of Alabama has charged a new theory of criminal liability that does not lawfully exist," according to legal papers filed on Jones' behalf. "The State charges Ms. Jones with intending to cause the death of her unborn child by allegedly 'initiating a fight.' The State's theory ignores the law and ignores reason."

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

Jones was five months pregnant when she was shot during a fight in December outside a Dollar General store in the Birmingham suburb of Pleasant Grove.

The woman who allegedly shot Jones, Ebony Jemison, 23, was initially charged with manslaughter, but a grand jury declined to indict her after determining she shot Jones in self-defense, prosecutors said. The same grand jury indicted Jones on one count of manslaughter.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss the charge has been scheduled for July 9.

"It is simply unconscionable to prosecute a shooting victim for losing her baby as the result of unforeseeable injury," Jones' attorneys from the Birmingham lawfirm White Arnold & Dowd said in a statement Monday. "The charges against Marshae are based on a flawed and contorted theory of criminal liability that simply does not exist under law."

The grand jury's decision caused a firestorm and came after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey 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.

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

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.

A Jefferson County grand jury indicted Jones on May 1 after finding she "intentionally" caused the death of her unborn child by "initiating" the fight with Jemison on Dec. 4 knowing she was five months pregnant.

But 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 reads. "With Alabama’s recent abortion ban, we will continue to see people of color being charged for their reproductive decisions and outcomes."

Jefferson County Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynniece Washington spoke out on the case for the first time on Saturday, saying there had been "miscommunications" about her office's role in the indictment, according to The Birmingham News.

"Let me tell each and every one of you, this has been a tragedy. A child... a child, a helpless child is now dead. Was it avoidable? Absolutely. One hundred percent. However, that young lady has to live for the rest of her life thinking about her choices and decisions,” Washington told a crowd attending a performance in Birmingham of the play "Justice on Trial: Black Lives Matter, Too."

While Washington, the first black woman to serve as a district attorney in the state's history, said she would "respect" the decision of the grand jury, she said her office had not yet decided whether to pursue the manslaughter case against Jones.

"As district attorney, I have the discretion and power to do what I please," Washington said.

Washington, who was on a vacation cruise in the Dominican Republic when Jones was indicted, also addressed the criticism her office has received over the grand jury's decision, which she said was based on information provided by the Pleasant Grove police.

“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 said. “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.”

ABC News' Edith Honan contributed to this report.