A California woman facing a murder charge after delivering a stillborn baby could be released if a judge agrees with her defense team.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Chelsea 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.”
Prosecutors argued that not only does the law not apply in Becker’s case, but she repeatedly and purposedly put her children at risk because of drug use. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who backs the defense in the case, disagrees.
“The Legislature’s purpose in adding the killing of a fetus to Penal Code section 187 was not to punish women who do not — or cannot, because of addiction or resources — follow best practices for prenatal health,” Becerra wrote.
Becker remains behind bars on a $2 million bond. A judge is expected to make a decision on Tuesday as to whether to release Becker to a treatment center before trial.
Check back for updates.
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[Feature Photo: Chelsea Becker/Police Handout]