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Court split on dismissing murder, attempted feticide charges

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In a case of first impression involving a mother who ingested rat poison in an attempt to kill herself and her unborn child, one Indiana Court of Appeals judge felt that if the feticide statute is applied to women’s prenatal conduct, it might lead to a “slippery slope” in which a full range of a woman’s conduct while pregnant could fall under the feticide statute.

Bei Bei Shuai got pregnant during an affair with a married man, and when he ended their relationship, she decided to ingest rat poison to kill herself and her 33-week-old fetus. Both she and the fetus originally survived, but the baby had to be delivered by emergency C-section and died days later. The coroner concluded that A.S. died of “intracerebral hemorrhage due to maternal Coumadin ingestion.” Coumadin is a variant of an ingredient found in rat poison.

The state charged Shuai with felony murder and Class B felony attempted feticide. Shuai’s request for bail was denied, as was her motion to dismiss. Whether or not the murder and feticide statutes can be applied to a woman in this situation is one of first impression.

The appellate court unanimously agreed in Bei Bei Shuai v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1106-CR-486, that the trial court erred in denying Shuai’s request for bail. While evidence was presented to show she ingested rat poison with the intent to kill herself and her child, Shuai also presented evidence to support alternate explanations for the hemorrhage that led to A.S.’s death. The COA remanded for a determination of bail.

The judges split with regards to dismissing the charges against Shuai. The charging information said Shuai, on Dec. 23, 2010, knowingly killed her fetus that had attained viability when she ingested the rat poison and caused A.S. to be born in distress and subsequently die. Shuai claimed A.S. didn’t die on Dec. 23 because she was born alive and died on Jan. 3. When she died, she was no longer a fetus and now a human being.

The state argued that even though A.S.’s birth changed her from a “viable fetus” to a “human being,” it was Shuai’s actions that caused her death and the date she took the rat poison doesn’t matter.

The majority held that the charging information isn’t defective and that the feticide is not ambiguous as applied here. The plain language of the statute encompasses Shuai’s alleged actions and she doesn’t have immunity from prosecution.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented because she believed the charges should be dismissed. The facts show that on Dec. 23, Shuai didn’t kill a viable fetus, and the state didn’t provide evidence that Shuai did anything to endanger A.S. after her birth. She disagreed with the state’s contention that the categories of “viable fetus” and “another human being” as defined in the murder statute, can be used interchangeably with the focus on Shuai’s actions, not A.S.’s legal status.

“By arguing that A.S.’s legal status as a viable fetus and as a human being are interchangeable, the State disregards legislative reality and impermissibly attempts to enlarge the murder statute,” she wrote. “In light of Indiana's long-standing statutory and case law history, I conclude that it was never the intention of the legislature that the feticide statute should be used to criminalize prenatal conduct of a pregnant woman. Rather, the statute should only be applied to third-party conduct which endangers or harms a non-viable fetus.”


 

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  1. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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