ILNews

Court split on dismissing murder, attempted feticide charges

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.”


 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. "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.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

ADVERTISEMENT