Ethics Observations On The Marshae Jones Case

In case you missed the facts of this instant ethics train wreck a legal case, here they are:

Marshae Jones,  27-years old, was five months pregnant when she attacked female co-worker, Ebony Jemison, 23, in the parking lot of a Dollar Store. The two had a long-standing and bitter rivalry over their romantic designs regarding a man who worked at the same company and who is apparently the father of the unborn child.  Jones  had Jemison pinned in her car while punching her repeatedly. In self defense,  Jemison grabbed her gun and fired point blank at Marshae’s stomach. The car taking Jones  to the hospital broke down, delaying a medical response. Paramedics eventually arrived, but the unborn child had been struck by the bullet, and died.

A grand juryindicted Jones for  “initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant,” but chose not to indict Ebony Jemison, who fired the shot. Despite the confusing and incompetent reporting on the case, it is still not certain that prosecutors in Pleasant Grove, Alabama will ultimately prosecute Jones, who according to all reports wanted her baby.  I doubt that they will.  Lynneice Washington, the district attorney for part of Jefferson County, said last week that no decision had yet been made about whether to go to trial, file lesser charges against Jones, or dismiss the case altogether.

“Foremost, it should be stated that this is a truly tragic case,” her statement said. “We feel sympathy for the families involved, including Ms. Jones, who lost her unborn child.”


1. The fact that Jemison was not charged should surprise no one, nor does it reasonably affect the ethical and legal issues at issue here. She was attacked. The law of self-defense almost universally allows the use of deadly force when the alternative is sustaining a serious beating.  If one is attacked by a pregnant woman, the response to the attack does not have to be moderated because of the possible consequences to an unborn child. The responsibility for any adverse result to the fetus is completely the expectant mother’s.

2. Thus this headline by ABC and others like it— “Alabama woman charged in fetal death, her shooter goes free”—are inflammatory, misleading and biased journalism, blatantly attempting to take Jones’ side.

3. Alabama law declares a fetus to have the rights of a person from the moment of conception. There is nothing unethical or unreasonable about such a law, whether or not you agree with it. The reverse law, that a fetus/embryo/unborn child has no rights until birth is also ethically and legally defensible. Both cause practical problems and ethical conflicts and dilemmas, as do any compromise positions.

4. As long as a jurisdiction allows abortions within Supreme Court guidelines, there is nothing unethical about the jurisdiction prosecuting someone other than the mother who kills a fetus, intentionally or through negligence. 38 states have laws that classify fetuses as victims in homicide or assault, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In Alabama, a “person” includes embryos and fetuses at any stage of development, and the state leads the nation in such prosecutions. Last year, Jessica Lindsey, 29, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to chemical endangerment for using heroin while pregnant. Raven West, a heroin addict who gave birth to a stillborn baby, received a five-year suspended sentence last year. And Alexandra Laird, who gave birth to two children who tested positive for heroin, received two suspended 10-year sentences and access to a treatment program, according to court records.

Regarding those three results: Good…Good…Good. I have no problem with them.

4. The question is, how different is a pregnant woman who starts a parking lot fist fight that precipitates sufficient violence to kill her unborn child from a woman who knowingly ingests toxic substances that harm or kill a fetus? I don’t see a material difference. If not, then why is it unreasonable to prosecute Jones?

5. It is amazing how deftly the same progressive advocates can turn on a dime and go from “Think of the children!” to “DON’T think of the children!” depending on what’s expedient at the time.

6. Although Alabama is currently challenging Roe v. Wade, this case has nothing to do with its defiant anti-abortion law. I see no reason to believe that Jones wouldn’t be charged under the same criminal statute a year ago or five years ago. This episode has just given pro-abortion advocates an opportunity to attack the state and make Jones into a martyr, though she was not seeking an abortion. At about 20 weeks pregnant, Jones was within the range where she could have had an abortion before the new law, so the feminist argument is, I guess, that if you can legally abort an unborn baby, you should also be able to get it shot without any consequences.


7. The callousness with which the news media tries to spin stories related to the unborn is striking. Here’s the Washington Post:

“The 27-year-old was five months pregnant when she was involved in a fight that, authorities say, prompted a woman to fire a gun in self-defense. The bullet tore through Jones’s abdomen and caused a miscarriage.”

No, the bullet struck the unborn child and killed it. That’s not a “miscarriage.”

8. Whatever the outcome, Jones caused the death of her unborn child through outrageous, violent and uncivilized behavior, and warrants no sympathy whatsoever.

As always in such stories, her family says that Jones is a saint. Her mother calls her “a fun-loving mom, churchgoing, a hard-working lady,” insisting, “My child just doesn’t bother anybody.”  Except, that is, a woman trying to make time with the father of Jones’ unborn child, in a parking lot, where she engages in a fist fight. Yeah, that Marshae is a responsible, model citizen! How could this happen to her?

9. Her lawyers say, absurdly,

“This young mother was shot in the stomach while five months pregnant and lost her baby as a result. She lost her home to a fire and lost her job. Now, for reasons that defy imagination, she faces an unprecedented legal action that subjects this victim of violence to further distress and harm.”

I know lawyers must defend their client’s zealously, but this is legal demagoguery.  She was shot because of her own criminal actions. She was fired because she attacked a co-worker. She was a “victim of violence” necessitated by her own attack. I don’t know what the fire has to do with anything; the statement just as well might have said, “And she faces painful root canal work due to chronic tooth decay.” Talk about throwing in everything but the kitchen sink!

10. I think this is worthy of another poll.


Sources: ABC, Washington Post, New York Times

18 thoughts on “Ethics Observations On The Marshae Jones Case

  1. I voted for assault charges only as I am unclear what the purpose/goal/outcome of charges would be. The father probably does not really care about the loss of the fetus. Does society gain justice or reconciliation as a result of charging for the death of the fetus?

  2. If she starts a fight and someone else is killed as a result of that fight, she’d most likely be charged with manslaughter, right?

    At 5 months, the baby is just about viable; I don’t see why even pro-choice people would see this case differently, just because the innocent bystander, who is now dead because of her recklessness, was in her uterus.

  3. (looks at poll) … Wow you guys are harsh.

    I am on-board with charging people who cause the death of a fetus while committing a crime (for example if someone is DUI and cause a pregnant woman to lose her child, that should be charged just the same as if it were a baby in a car seat). I am not so on-board with charging an expectant mother who loses her child through no fault of her own, or even through their own criminal conduct. That seems to defy common sense. That is why I voted for charge her with the assault.

    • Rusty, “no fault of her own?” She was involved in a felonious assault! I.e., “her own criminal conduct,” as you say. I think it’s essentially felony murder.

      • Yeah, my understanding is that she committed the felony attack and any death that resulted from that event is on her. I’m cynical enough to think she was planning to kill the shooter and use her pregnancy as a get out of jail free card. Even if she “only” wanted to beat the other woman up, how was the other woman to know. If someone seemed to be trying to kill or maim me with a beating, my own squeamish attitude toward lethal weapos would go by the wayside- and I would use whatever was within reach.

        I feel more sorry for Ebony, she defended her own life from a nutjob, and supposedly kinder and gentler enlightened people will be attacking Ebony for defending herself. All over some guy who probably is not a keeper they are acting like crazed teenagers.

      • I am with Other Bill on this one. The “She has Suffered Enough” line doesn’t cut it with me. She initiated the fight and the other woman appears to have been justified in using deadly force. It seems to me that this fight and the loss of her child are examples of a life a bad decisions.


  4. 5. It is amazing how deftly the same progressive advocates can turn on a dime and go from “Think of the children!” to “DON’T think of the children!” depending on what’s expedient at the time.

    Jack, Jack, Jack, you’re missing the CHILD in this case. It’s Marshae! Get with the program! She’s only twenty-seven. See her mother’s comments in 8. above where she refers to her twenty-seven year-old daughter as “my child.” Evidently black people don’t grow out of childhood until their mothers die, or sometime, certainly well past eighteen, at least when they’re involved in violent felonies.

    • “Evidently black people … .”
      No need for stereotyping. This is one woman and her mother, and you cannot legitimately generalize that to an entire race.

      • Michael Brown got the “child” moniker. Laquan McDonald. Travon Martin. The Dems want people this age to be able to vote. But when they’re valuable as victims, they’re “children.” When behavior becomes stereotypical, are we supposed to not notice it?

  5. She should, yes. But, if I were the prosecutor, knowing the backlash this case would generate, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Maybe refer it to DoJ for a civil rights violation. Oh, wait…Holder’s gone, isn’t he.

    • “[K]nowing the backlash this case would generate, . . . ” That is why they are prosecutors – they have to make those difficult calls and prosecute the hard cases.

      The issue is not whether there will be community blow-back; the issue is whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a criminal indictment and whether there is a likelihood of obtaining a conviction. Prosecutorial discretion may justify not pursuing the charge, but that has to happen after a reasonable inquiry into the facts. If the standard is community blow-back or community outrage, then we are headed down the road of Zimmerman (first degree murder charges where there were no facts to justify that prosecution) or Michael Brown (racially motivated police involved shooting of an “unarmed” black man). Those were political prosecutions to placate a lynch mob, sowing further discord and distrust in the Black community toward the criminal justice system.


  6. I went with charge her, and I guess the charge would be manslaughter (as well as assault). I have a general understanding of prosecutorial discretion, and my heart says, don’t charge. But, the law is the law. I cannot picture any good outcome for the prosecutor. An appeal challenging Alabama’s definition of a person would prove interesting.

  7. “Jones had Jemison pinned in her car while punching her repeatedly. In self defense, Jemison grabbed her gun and fired point blank at Marshae’s stomach.”

    Everything I’ve read on the case so far said Jemison fired into the ground, and the shot ricocheted into Jone’s stomach, and that hair-pulling was the most physical that Jones had gotten. If the reports are correct, does that change the allocation of responsibility?

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