(Reuters) - Eight weeks after an Alabama grand jury indicted a woman for manslaughter over the loss of her fetus in a shooting she was accused of provoking, a state district attorney’s office said on Friday it was still considering whether to prosecute the case.
Marshae Jones, 28, of Birmingham, intentionally caused the death of her “unborn baby Jones” on Dec. 4, 2008, by “initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant,” according to the two-page indictment returned against her on May 1.
Quoting from the state’s definition of manslaughter, the indictment goes on to assert that “said death” occurred due to a “sudden heat of passion caused by provocation recognized by law, and before a reasonable time for the passion to cool and for reason to reassert itself.”
The altercation and shooting that Jones allegedly instigated occurred in the town of Pleasant Grove, just west of Birmingham, and grew out of a quarrel over who was the father of her baby, local media reported.
The Jefferson County grand jury reached its conclusion after examining the actions of both the would-be mother who was shot and the woman who opened fire on her, Ebony Jemison, the local district attorney’s office said in a statement about the case.
The grand jury, according to the D.A.’s office, determined that Jemison had “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.”
However, the D.A.’s office said it was still evaluating the case to decide whether “to prosecute it as a manslaughter case, reduce it to a lesser charge or not to prosecute it.”
Court records show Jones was arrested nine days after the shooting and remains jailed on a $50,000 bond.
The Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based advocacy group that provides financial assistance to women seeking abortions in the state, has decried Jones’ arrest.
The indictment came to public attention weeks after Alabama enacted the nation’s strictest anti-abortion law on the books, banning women from terminating a pregnancy in almost all instances, including cases of rape and incest.
The district attorney’s office acknowledged that some groups “have attempted to tie this case to the anti-abortion law,” which was signed into law on May 15.
“This case predates the passage of the legislation, and we must point out the new law played no role in the consideration of the grand jury,” the D.A.’s statement said.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles