Chelsea Becker, 26, was nine-months pregnant when she decided to get high on crystal meth. Her son was stillborn a few days later in September 2019. Because the baby boy was found to have methamphetamine in his system, Becker was arrested and locked away. Now, Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, has filed a motion to dismiss the murder charges against the young mother, which is the breakthrough she has been hoping for since her arrest.
Becerra’s involvement in the murder case began in August when he submitted an amicus brief to the Fifth Court of Appeals. His brief was designed to get the Court of Appeals to throw the case out on procedural grounds. The Court refused to throw the murder charge out, which is why Becerra has taken further measures to fight for the meth-smoking mother.
Becker brought her case to the state’s Supreme Court on October 26, 2020 – about a year after her baby was born dead with meth in his system.
“In the Attorney General’s view, as set out in full in the amicus brief filled in the court of appeal, when the Legislature amended the Penal Code, to include the death of a fetus, it did not intend to sweep in a woman’s own actions that might result in a miscarriage or stillbirth,” Becerra wrote. “We believe the law was misapplied and misinterpreted.”
He added, “Section 187 of the California Penal Code was intended to protect pregnant women from harm, not charge them with murder. Our laws in California do not convict women who suffer the loss of their pregnancy, and in our filing today, we are making clear that this law has been misused to the detriment of women, children, and families. We will work to end the prosecution and imprisonment of Ms. Becker so we can focus on applying this law to those who put the lives of pregnant women in danger.”
California’s attorney general is not the only person fighting for the charges to be dropped. Jennifer Chou of the ACLU also filed an amicus brief and told Daily Mail that the murder charge against Becker “raises some very serious issues.” A similar case was tried in the 1990s. The ACLU represented the defendants.
“We particularly pay attention to issues coming out of California’s central valley: it is incredibly under-resourced,” Chou said. “It’s very relevant to thinking about how our government systems are actually treating people who need their help.”
When Becker’s child was born dead, doctors thought it was suspicious. Becker later admitted to abusing meth just three days before the baby was born.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, is aiding Becker’s defense.
“It is outrageous that Ms. Becker has been incarcerated since November of 2019 for a nonexistent crime,” Paltrow said.
Meanwhile, Keith Fagundes, Kings County district attorney, believes the murder charge is right.
“It’s shocking to me the attorney general’s office has taken a position without ever having contacted our office, without admitting whether they’ve read any police reports, without discussing these issues to say what makes this [case] different,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “And unfortunately, the petitioner is attempting to couch this in terms of a reproductive rights case, and it’s not about that.”
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