Women’s groups around the country have warned that Bei Bei Shuai’s prosecution could set a precedent in which the actions of a pregnant woman are criminalised. Photograph: Aaron P Bernstein/Polaris
Woman Accused of Murder for Attempting Suicide While Pregnant Refuses Plea Deal
Bei Bei Shuai spent over a year in jail, held without bail for the charge of “murdering” her unborn baby by ingesting rat poison while attempting suicide. The state repeatedly denied her request for bail, stating that it is never offered in murder cases.
Eventually, she was allowed out on bond while she awaited her trial. Now, Indiana courts are offering her a chance to plea down to “attempted feticide,” a deal that would massively reduce the amount of time she could spend in jail if she is found guilty.
Shuai says no way.
Via ABC News:
Bei Bei Shuai turned down prosecutors’ offer to drop a murder charge if she pleads guilty to a lesser charge of attempted feticide during a court hearing in Indianapolis, her lawyer and prosecutors said. If Shuai had accepted the deal, she could have faced six to 20 years in prison or even received a suspended sentence.
The 35-year-old Shanghai native, who was freed on bond in May after more than a year in jail, has until Aug. 31 to change her mind.
Defense attorney Linda Pence said Shuai wants to clear her name and avoid the stigma of guilt.
“She intends to fight these charges vigorously,” Pence said. “She doesn’t want any other woman to go through what she has gone through.”
After so adamantly refusing to drop the case, or even allowing Shuai bail, why would the prosecutors now be interested in offering a plea? Could it be that they had been looking for a case to set a precedent for charging pregnant women who “murder” their fetuses in utero, and are determined to get a feticide example into the books one way or another?
There is definitely some other motive driving the efforts in the prosecutors office. The chief prosecutor, Terry Curry, attempted to have an ethics complaint filed against Pence for statements made while Pence solicited donations to Shuai’s legal defense fund, saying Pence’s words were an attempt to “prejudice the potential jury pool.” It was an accusation that other legal advisers saw as the state trying to intimidate Shuai’s lawyer. Richard Kammen, a member of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers, told The Guardian:
“This strikes me as being way outside what a prosecutor should be doing. Given the numerous public statements about this case made by the prosecutor, it makes you wonder what the agenda might be – is it to intimidate her or prevent her raising money?”
This isn’t the first attempt at intimidation from the office, either. Leaving Shuai in prison with no bail for over a year was one form, and attempting to get her to plea down to feticide by threatening her with a 45- to 65-year prison term under a murder charge is another.
Was the prosecutor’s office searching for a test case for the feticide law? A white paper supplied by Pence’s firm may support that idea. It notes that this is in fact the first time in Indiana history that a pregnant woman has ever been charged with the death of her unborn child, and the discretion that the prosecutor’s office had on whether or not to press charges in the first place.
Mr. Curry did not seek counsel from psychiatrists, physicians, or other professionals who have dedicated their lives to maternal and fetal health, nor was he interested in meeting with Ms. Shuai’s defense counsel and considering legal issues and facts which should have been considered by a prosecutor interested in understanding the implications of his momentous charging decision. Instead, he listened and built a case based on the inaccurate, unscientific, and discredited autopsy report, prepared by a relatively inexperienced pathologist who was employed by a private entity named “Biblical Dogs.”
Between the investigation into Shuai beginning almost immediately after the death of her fetus three days after birth, an autopsy report that didn’t appear to fully explore other potential causes for the brain hemorrhage that eventually killed her, and a refusal to consider bail for over a year followed up by dangling a potential suspended sentence versus spending the rest of her life in prison, all signs point to a prosecutor who wanted a feticide plea before the case ever fully got underway.
- Indiana prosecutor accused of silencing Chinese woman on murder charge (guardian.co.uk)
- Ind. Woman Rejects Plea Deal in Death of Newborn (abcnews.go.com)
- Ind. woman rejects plea deal in death of newborn (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- US woman rejects plea deal in death of newborn (ktvb.com)
- Ind. woman rejects plea deal in death of newborn (heraldonline.com)
- Ind. woman rejects plea deal in death of newborn (kansascity.com)
- Woman rejects plea deal in death of newborn (miamiherald.com)
- Indiana prosecutor accused of silencing Chinese woman on murder charge (oddonion.com)
- Indiana prosecuting Chinese woman for suicide attempt that killed her foetus (guardian.co.uk)
- Indiana prosecutor accused of silencing Chinese woman on murder charge (rawstory.com)