A Chinese immigrant to the US who prosecutors say ate rat poison when she was eight months pregnant rejected a plea agreement on Friday that would have negated a murder charge in her newborn baby’s death.
Bei Bei Shuai (帥貝貝) turned down the prosecutors’ offer to drop a murder charge if she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of attempted feticide during a court hearing in Indianapolis, her lawyer and prosecutors said.
If Shuai had accepted the deal, she could have faced six to 20 years in prison or received a suspended sentence.
The 35-year-old Shanghai native, who was freed on bond in May after more than a year in jail, has until Aug. 31 to change her mind.
Defense attorney Linda Pence said Shuai wanted to clear her name.
“She intends to fight these charges vigorously,” Pence said. “She does not want any other woman to go through what she has gone through.”
Several medical and women’s rights groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Shuai.
Some briefs claim that a conviction in the case could set a precedent by which pregnant women could be prosecuted for smoking or other behavior that authorities deemed a danger to their unborn child.
A lawyer with the New York-based National Advocates for Pregnant Women is assisting in Shuai’s defense.
Shuai was eight months pregnant on Dec. 23, 2010, when she ate rat poison after her boyfriend broke up with her. Shuai was hospitalized and doctors detected little wrong with the unborn child’s health for the first few days. The premature girl, Angel Shuai (帥安吉爾), was delivered by caesarean section on Dec. 31, but died from bleeding in the brain three days later.
Prosecutors charged Shuai with murder in March last year, arguing that a suicide note she wrote showed that she intended for her baby to die with her. Pence disputes that claim.
“She never intended to kill her baby. She intended to kill herself and she would care for her baby in the afterlife. She wishes she would have died instead,” Pence said.
For months, Shuai’s attorneys tried to persuade Judge Sheila Carlisle to dismiss the charges, but Carlisle refused. Higher courts also declined to dismiss the charges, but did order Carlisle to set bond — a rarity in Indiana murder cases.
Defense lawyers also asked Carlisle to bar from evidence medical records related to Shuai’s hospital treatment, which they said was given to police by a pathologist who did not have Shuai’s consent. Carlisle did not rule on the defense motion on Friday, but gave both sides 30 days in which to file legal briefs.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said on Friday that his office had asked the judge to admonish Pence for making allegedly unethical statements in an effort to raise funds for Shuai’s defense.
In court documents filed on Thursday, Pence denied that she had violated the legal code of conduct and claimed that her statements were within the boundaries of free speech.
Curry also said his office had issued a subpoena to the Guardian newspaper in the UK seeking a video recording of an interview with Shuai.
Curry said the newspaper was “resisting” the subpoena.