INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana prosecutor acknowledged Friday that he may drop a murder charge against a Chinese immigrant who ate rat poison while she was pregnant now that a judge has ruled a doctor's claim that the toxin killed her newborn baby can't be used at trial.
Prosecutors have argued Shanghai native Bei Bei Shuai killed her child by eating rat poison in December 2010, when she was eight months pregnant. But Marion County Judge Sheila Carlisle ruled last week that Dr. Jolene Clouse, who performed the autopsy on newborn Angel Shuai, didn't consider other possible causes for the brain bleeding that caused the baby's death, including a drug that Shuai received while she was in the hospital.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said in a statement Friday that dismissing the murder charge against Shuai is one of the three options prosecutors are weighing following Carlisle's decision. The other two options are requesting a pre-trial appeal of the judge's ruling or asking for a second pathologist to review the cause of death, the statement said.
Defense attorney Linda Pence said Friday that Curry should dismiss all charges against Shuai, calling them a "patently unfair, cruel unconstitutional prosecution."
Carlisle wrote that Clouse never said how she knew it was the toxin in rat poison that caused the baby's death and not indomethacin, a drug given to pregnant women that can have a similar effect. Carlisle also said Clouse didn't consider that brain bleeds occur often in premature infants without any clear cause. That, the judge said, made Clouse's conclusion "unreliable."
"It was a weak case from the get-go, and he knew that," Pence said.
Shuai was eight months pregnant when she ate rat poison on Dec. 23, 2010, after her boyfriend broke up with her. She was hospitalized and gave birth to Angel on Dec. 31. The baby died three days later. Prosecutors who charged Shuai with murder and feticide in March 2011 contend Shuai meant for her then-unborn child to die with her.
The case in Indiana has drawn attention from reproductive rights advocates who claim it could set a precedent by which pregnant women could be prosecuted for smoking or other behavior that authorities deem dangerous to their unborn child. Pence said theoretically, a pregnant female soldier who served in combat could be prosecuted for endangering her fetus.
"This is all political, religious nonsense," Pence said.
Shuai was released on bond last May. Her trial is set for April 22.
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