A young mother charged with murder after her stillborn baby was found to have toxic methane levels in its system was publicly endorsed by the Los Angeles District Attorney.
Xavier Becerra filed an amicus letter on Friday in support of 26-year-old Chelsea Becker, who gave birth to her dead child in September.
Becker has been in prison in Kings County, California, since November and is charged with the murder of the baby.
She tried to bring the charges against her and Becerra supported her efforts.
Chelsea Becker, 26, gave birth to a stillborn boy in September and was arrested in November
"Today we filed an amicus letter supporting the appeal of Chelsea Becker because we believe the law has been misapplied and misinterpreted," he said.
Section 187 of California's Penal Code was designed to protect pregnant women from harm, not to blame them for murder.
“Our laws in California do not condemn women suffering from pregnancy loss, and in our filing today we make it clear that this law has been misused to the detriment of women, children and families.
"We will work to end the prosecution and detention of Ms. Becker so we can focus on applying this law to those who put the lives of pregnant women at risk."
Becker's baby was stillborn in a hospital, but the child's death was considered suspect.
The Kings County Coroner's Office performed an autopsy and decided that the baby's death was a murder due to toxic methane levels in the baby's system.
After further investigation, the police learned of Becker's drug abuse for years.
LA District Attorney Xavier Becerra filed a motion in support of Becker on Friday
Police say Becker released several children from prison for drug abuse.
Hanford police said Becker had admitted to officials that she used meth during pregnancy, even three days before she was born.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, which supports Becker's defense, said the murder charge was "outrageous" and should be dropped.
"It is outrageous that Ms. Becker has been detained for a non-existent crime since November 2019," she said.
Becker has a history of fighting substance abuse
Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes has kept the homicide law backing the prosecution, pointing out a 1970 amendment that added a fetus as a potential victim.
A Kings County Superior Court judge was on the side of his job in June, denying Becker's lawyers motion to dismiss the case.
Fagundes said he was upset that Becerra weighed the case.
"It is shocking to me that the attorney general's office took a position without ever contacting our firm, without admitting whether they read police reports, without discussing these questions to say what makes this [case] different" he told the Los Angeles Times.
"And unfortunately the petitioner is trying to put this in relation to a reproductive rights case and that's not the point."
Filing has no direct bearing on whether law enforcement will continue.
But it's a strong statement of support from the state's chief attorney as the appeals court weighs whether the case should be dismissed.
Becker was arrested in November and charged with the murder of her stillborn baby
"The California attorney general is the senior legal officer in the state government's executive branch," said Daniel Arshack, special adviser to the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
"That you felt compelled to alert the court that Kings County Justice has misapplied state law is not going to be ignored by the court."
Becker's case was supported by medical and civic organizations, with 15 groups – including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry – signing a brief in support of the dismissal of the indictment.
The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a brief.
"We commend Attorney General Becerra's request to drop the charges against Chelsea Becker," said Attorney Jennifer Chou of the ACLU in Northern California in a statement.
"The decision to prosecute her is against California law and has profoundly dangerous implications."