SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a legal brief Thursday to the state Supreme Court supporting a review by Chelsea Becker, a Kings County woman arrested and charged with murder after delivering a stillborn child while allegedly under the influence of methamphetamine.
In the letter, called an amicus curiae, Becerra argued that when the California Legislature amended Penal Code section 187 in 1970 to include the death of a fetus, the intent was not to include a woman’s own actions that might result in a miscarriage or stillbirth, the California Dept. of Justice said. Instead, the legislature’s intent was to criminalize violence done to pregnant women that caused fetal death.
The Attorney General previously filed a legal brief in July, called an amicus brief, with the state Fifth District Court of Appeals in support of Becker’s petition to end the prosecution and all criminal proceedings against her.
The Kings County DA alleged that Becker’s methamphetamine use while pregnant led to the death of the fetus and constituted murder. He charged Becker with violating P.C. 187 on Oct. 31, 2019.
“Section 187 of the California Penal Code was intended to protect pregnant women from harm, not to be used to prosecute for murder a woman who has just lost a pregnancy,” Becerra said. “We will continue to work to see our laws properly applied in order to end Ms. Becker and Ms. Perez’s imprisonments and protect women from similar prosecution in the future.”
Becker remains in custody at this time.
In the letter, Becerra also urged the state supreme court to intervene to avoid several consequences caused by a misinterpretation of section 187 including:
- Deterring pregnant women with addiction issues from seeking out necessary, and sometimes lifesaving, healthcare for fear of criminal liability and imprisonment; and
- Additional and unnecessary scrutiny by law enforcement on every miscarriage and stillbirth. Added scrutiny could have disproportionate criminal justice impacts, as the rates of miscarriage and stillbirth vary dramatically by race and ethnicity.
Becerra also filed a letter of non-opposition in October in Adora Perez v. Superior Court of Kings County, a case similar to Becker’s, the California Dept. of Justice said. The Kings County District Attorney prosecuted Perez for “fetal murder” under California Penal Code Section 187.
Perez is serving an 11-year prison term.