A young mother charged with murder after her stillborn baby boy was found to have toxic levels of meth in his system has been publicly backed by the Los Angeles district attorney.
Xavier Becerra on Friday filed an amicus brief in support of Chelsea Becker, 26, who delivered her dead child in September.
Becker has been in jail in Kings County, California, since November, charged with the baby’s murder.
She has been trying to get the charges against her dismissed, and Becerra backed her efforts.
Chelsea Becker, 26, gave birth to a stillborn boy in September and was arrested in November
‘Today we filed an amicus brief supporting Chelsea Becker’s appeal, because we believe the law was misapplied and misinterpreted,’ he said.
‘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.’
Becker’s baby was delivered stillborn at a hospital, but the infant’s death was deemed suspicious.
The Kings County Coroner’s Office completed an autopsy and ruled the baby’s death a homicide due to toxic levels of meth in the baby’s system.
After further investigation, police learned about Becker’s years of substance abuse.
Xavier Becerra, the LA district attorney, on Friday filed a motion in support of Becker
Police say Becker has had multiple children removed from her custody due to her substance abuse.
Hanford police said that Becker admitted to officers that she used meth while she was pregnant, even using the drug three days before she gave birth.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which is assisting with Becker’s defense, said the murder charges were ‘outrageous’ and should be dropped.
‘It is outrageous that Ms Becker has been incarcerated since November of 2019 for a nonexistent crime,’ she said.
Becker has a history of battling drug abuse
Keith Fagundes, Kings County district attorney, has maintained the murder law supports the charge, pointing to a 1970 amendment that added a fetus as a potential victim.
A Kings County Superior Court judge sided with his office in June, denying an application by Becker’s lawyers to dismiss the case.
Fagundes said he was angered by Becerra’s weighing in on the case.
‘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.’
The filing does not have an immediate impact on whether the prosecution will go forward.
But it is a powerful statement of support from the state’s top lawyer as the appeals court weighs whether to dismiss the case.
Becker was arrested in November and charged with murder over her stillborn baby
‘The attorney general of California is the highest legal officer in the executive branch of the state government,’ said Daniel Arshack, special counsel to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
‘That they felt compelled to alert the court that the Kings County judiciary has misapplied state law is something that the court will not ignore.’
Becker’s case has gained the support of medical and civil rights organizations, with 15 groups — including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry — signing onto a brief in support of dismissing the charge.
The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a brief.
‘We commend Attorney General Becerra’s call for the criminal charges against Chelsea Becker to be dropped,’ attorney Jennifer Chou of the ACLU of Northern California said in a statement.
‘The decision to prosecute her flies in the face of California law, and holds deeply dangerous implications.’