Miami, United States — A Florida court has denied the petition of a pregnant murder suspect who sought release from prison on the grounds her unborn child was innocent of the charges and therefore being held unlawfully.
In a ruling obtained by AFP on Tuesday, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal dismissed without prejudice the petition filed on behalf of Natalia Harrell’s fetus, saying there were still questions that needed to be addressed in a lower court but issuing no ruling on whether the case had legal merit.
The court said in its decision Friday it was impossible to “properly resolve whether the unborn child has the standing to file the petition before us given the inadequate record in this matter.”
Harrell, 24, has been in jail for some seven months and faces a murder charge after fatally shooting another woman while they were taking an Uber in Miami last July.
Harrell was about six weeks pregnant at the time of her arrest.
She pleaded not guilty, arguing she acted in self-defense.
The fetus “has not committed any crime” yet remains incarcerated in “deplorable conditions” and unless granted relief will be “likely brought into this world on the concrete floor of the prison cell,” Harrell’s petition says.
Judge Monica Gordo agreed with the court’s decision to dismiss the petition, but argued in a dissenting opinion that the case itself had no legal basis.
“The argument is nothing more than an attempt for the mother to leverage her unborn child as a basis to be released from lawful detention,” Gordo wrote.
“No more could the government be accused of unlawfully detaining the unborn child in this case than could the mother be guilty of kidnapping over interstate lines if she chose to visit her grandmother in Georgia while eight months pregnant,” the judge added.
Last June, a pregnant woman in Texas who was ticketed for driving in a high-occupancy carpool lane argued that her unborn child should be counted as a second passenger. Her ticket was dismissed.
That case made international news because it came just five days after the US Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion enshrined in Roe v Wade, leaving the decision up to each state to regulate.
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