Bei Bei Shuai's case in international spotlight 

click to enlarge Bei Bei Shuai speaks to supporters at an April 7 rally Downtown. - DAVE CEROLA
  • Bei Bei Shuai speaks to supporters at an April 7 rally Downtown.
  • Dave Cerola

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has lot of high-profile business on his plate these days - a skyrocketing homicide rate, the Richmond Hill aftermath, not to mention the challenges in making a case against suspended IMPD Officer David Bisard.

But public interest in the case against Bei Bei Shuai trumps them all.

"I have literally, through the combination of my campaign generic email, our office generic email, and my personal email, received tens of thousands of emails from anywhere around the country and world about this matter," Curry said in an interview Monday.

"The level of misinformation is staggering ... (emails that) clearly just do not have a understanding of the fundamental allegations of the case."

On Dec. 23, 2010, Shuai attempted suicide while she was 33 weeks pregnant by consuming rat poison. Friends saved her, but her baby, who was born via caesarian section Dec. 31, died in her arms on Jan. 3, 2011. In March of 2011, she was charged with murder and attempted feticide and placed in the Marion County Jail for 14 months without bail. She was released on bail following an order for the Indiana Court of Appeals, but the case against her is ongoing.

"If Terry Curry's prosecution is upheld, you're really talking about a system of law that is separate and unequal for pregnant women and any woman of child bearing age," Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said at an April 6 rally Downtown in support of Shuai. "What you are doing is opening the door in the name of protecting eggs, fetuses, and embryos authorizing the state to investigate, control, and punish every pregnant woman."

Curry said he understands that people want to debate the provisions of the law, but that his duty remains to enforce the law as it stands under the murder statute, "that the intentional killing of a fetus that has attained viability is murder" and the feticide statue that "terminating a pregnancy through other than a lawful abortion is feticide."

In a paper title "State of Indiana v. Bei Bei Shuai: An Unjustifiable and Dangerous Prosecution," Shuai's attorney, Linda Pence, writes that suicide is not a crime and that the prosecution of Shuai's case would "affect all pregnant women." In addition, it suggests the case follows in line with other "unjust and unconstitutional prosecutions against pregnant women," that "it is not scientifically sound to conclude that a pregnant woman's conduct caused injury to her fetus," that Curry's case demonstrates racial and gender discrimination, that such an approach will encourage greater use of abortions and is tantamount to "cruel and unusual punishment."

Curry rejected "slippery slope" theories that suggest successful prosecution of this case will open the door to press cases against behaviors that might harm a fetus, such as reckless driving, eating junkfood or drinking a cocktail.

"In fact," he said, "as it relates to abusing alcohol or drugs, one of our appellate courts already ruled that does NOT justify prosecuting a pregnant woman ... the suggestions over and over that we're on some sort of vendetta ... is incorrect, is absolutely wrong.

"What distinguishes this case is, what we allege, and what the Court of Appeals found also in the appeal that got prosecuted in this case, is this specific intent directed toward the fetus."

When asked if the case would be different if Shuai's suicide note did not specifically outlined her intent to end the her life and her baby's, Curry responded: "Potentially, no, it would not rise to the level of a criminal case. What distinguishes this is her statement. We're not inferring some intent or making some leap of faith here. It's her words and what her intent was."

More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition to protest the prosecution, burying Curry in emails ranging in sentiment from "This is a women who needs Help not punishment. Please drop all charges against her" to "This prosecution is not only STUPID, IT is a crime! The Prosecutor should be arrested, charged with felony oppression under COLOR of law, convicted, imprisoned and DISBARRED!"

A motions hearing in the Shuai case is set for at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Marion County Superior Court 3.

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