USA: Pregnant Woman Jailed On Charges Of Murder Files Plea Demanding Immediate Release Of Her Unborn Child


Legal minds can think beyond ordinary citizens. Nothing is right or wrong for the legal fraternity, it is all about exploiting the loopholes in the law.

In a unique case reported from the US, a pregnant woman jailed on charges of murder, has demanded immediate release of her “unborn child” citing ‘it’s independent rights’. 

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Natalia Harrell (24) has been in jail without bond since last year, on charges of fatally shooting another 28-year-old woman named Gladys Borcela during an argument in an Uber on July 23. Harrell was six-weeks pregnant at the time she was charged with second-degree murder.

The charge carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. She pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial in April.

However, in the interim, Harrell who is in her eight-month pregnancy, has filed a writ of habeas corpus through her attorney in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal alleging that a ‘person’ (fetus) is being illegally detained.

The plea also states that the jail staff has endangered the fetus by refusing proper prenatal care and putting her in situations like making her sit in a corrections van without air conditioning, when the temperature was more than 100 degrees fahrenheit inside the van.

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The petition filed by Harrell’s attorney William M. Norris says the “unborn child” is innocent and should be discharged from jail so it can receive proper care. That would require Harrell to be released until the child is born, the writ argues. Speaking with The Washington Post, Norris quoted:

An unborn child has rights independent of its mother, even though it’s still in the womb. The unborn child has been deprived of due process of law in this incarceration. You simply have to have the unborn child as a factor in the equation.

The petition further states:

Detention center employees have failed and refused to provide medical care or transport Harrell to scheduled medical appointments. She hasn’t seen an obstetrician-gynecologist since October.

Employees have failed to provide Harrell vitamins, liquids and nutritional food that physicians advised would assist her fetus’s development, the writ says.

The petition adds,

Absent immediate release of UNBORN CHILD from the custody of Respondents. UNBORN CHILD will be likely brought into this world on the concrete floor of the prison cell, without the aid of qualified medical physicians and paramedics, and in the presence of violent criminals.

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Arguments by Attorney General

On Monday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed a motion to dismiss Norris’s petition, saying he didn’t provide necessary documentation to support the allegations about inadequate medical treatment. The motion argues that habeas corpus is the wrong legal argument under which to seek relief.

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Counter Reply From Norris

On Tuesday, Norris filed a response to the state’s motion to dismiss the petition, reasserting that the fetus is a person and that it has no other legal relief because it is not charged with any crime and thus has no ongoing court cases under which to file claims.

Norris told The Post he will continue to fight for the fetus’s freedom.

Norris also argued that even if the fetus doesn’t know it, Harrell’s is entitled to constitutional rights. The fetus has developed eyes and arms and could be born in the next month, the writ says. Without proper care, though, Norris said he fears the fetus will be harmed before or during childbirth. He added,

The unborn child is incarcerated without any consideration of its rights at all. Our interest is in the health of the unborn child, and at this point, it’s a crapshoot.

We don’t know what the health of the unborn child is at this point because months have passed with no prenatal care.

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A Miami-Dade County corrections and rehabilitation spokesman said in a statement to The Post that the department is reviewing its prenatal care services. The statement read:

We are committed to ensuring all inmates receive professional, timely medical care and all appropriate treatment.

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