A California woman behind bars for murder will be released to a drug treatment program after her lawyers successfully argued that that the state’s homicide law doesn’t apply to pregnant women.
The Associated Press reports that on Tuesday, Kings County Superior Court Judge Robert Shane Burns granted Chelsea Becker attorneys’ request to release her from jail and transfer her to a residential treatment center while she awaits trial.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Becker, 26, was arrested in 2019 for the death of her son, Zachariah Joseph Campos. According to the Hanford Police Department, Becker was using meth when she delivered the baby. The infant had a lethal amount of methamphetamine in his system.
Zachariah’s death was ruled a homicide and Becker was ultimately charged with murder. Three other children were removed from Becker’s custody; authorities said that the other children were also born with meth in their system.
Prosecutors argued that keeping Becker behind bars is a way to deter others from taking meth while pregnant. Becker’s lawyer, Dan Arshack, claimed that prosecutors never reviewed the baby’s pathology report, which allegedly indicated that the infant had three infections that could have resulted in a stillbirth.
Arshack also argued that Becker wanted the baby and was heartbroken over his death, despite the prosecution’s allegations that she maliciously killed her son.
“This was a baby she intensely wanted to have, and she remains heartbroken that it resulted in a stillbirth, like any woman who has a stillbirth,” Arshack said.
The defense also argued that California law states that homicide does not apply to pregnant women. The law was amended in 1970 after convicted killer Rober Keller beat his ex-wife, Teresa Keeler, to death after she became pregnant by another man’s baby.
Keeler ended up giving birth to a stillborn baby after her ex told her he intended to “stomp” the baby out of her. Prosecutors wanted to charge Robert Keeler with murdering the baby but the California Supreme Court tossed the charge out and claimed that a fetus is not a human being and couldn’t be considered to be murdered under the statute, CNN reports.
The penal code amendment also states that the law does not apply to anyone who maliciously killed their infant with intention, including illegal abortion and anyone who “aided, abetted, or consented to by the mother of the fetus.”
Becker has been unable to raise the $2 million bail and has been behind bars awaiting trial for nearly two years.
“At this point, Ms. Becker has experienced the longest period of sobriety in the past several months than she has had in her entire adult life. We have hope in her rehabilitation and her ability to stop choosing drugs over her children,” Phil Esbenshade, the top assistant district attorney in Kings County, said, following the news of Becker’s release.
Arshack added that they are “gratified” with the judge’s decisions and plan to move again to have the case dismissed, CBS 5 reports.
Check back for updates.