The Supreme Court today denied a petition for review in Becker v. Superior Court, where a defendant is being prosecuted for murdering her fetus because of drug use during her pregnancy.  She argues the murder statute doesn’t apply to her conduct, a claim that has garnered media attention, and also amicus support, including from the state’s Attorney General.

Today’s ruling does not guarantee that the case will actually proceed to trial, however.  The prosecution is still at an early stage.  The defendant unsuccessfully demurred to the accusatory pleading and, when a divided Court of Appeal denied her writ petition, it said that it was doing so because she had “fail[ed] to make a prima facie showing the accusatory pleading is defective on its face” and that she is “not preclude[d] . . . from seeking writ relief once the facts of her case become part of the record.”  Similarly, the Supreme Court assures that its denial is “without prejudice to seek relief from any future proceedings.”

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ordered an expedited superior court hearing on whether the defendant could be released on reduced bail or her own recognizance pending trial.

[May 20, 2021 update:  Alex Wigglesworth in the Los Angeles Times — “Judge dismisses murder charge against Central Valley woman whose baby was stillborn.”]


Pretrial detention hearing ordered for defendant charged with murder because of drug use during pregnancy