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Civil rights groups, supporters gather for Marshae Jones

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Jefferson County Commissioner and The Black Women's Roundtable Convener, Sheila Tyson, speaks on behalf of Marshae Jones, with the Jones family standing behind her. (Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times)
Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

Family, friends, and supporters of Marshae Jones at a press conference in Bessemer. (Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times)

A number of civil rights and women groups gathered in Bessemer Tuesday to express outrage at the indictment of a Pleasant Grove, Ala. woman whose unborn child was killed in a shooting.

“Where is the justice in the system where you get shot, you lose your child and…the person who shot you is free and you’re the one that’s incarcerated?” said Catrena Norris Carter, of Women United Now.

Carter was among several women on the steps of the Jefferson County Justice Center along with representatives from the metro chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter at a press conference for 27-year-old Marshae Jones, who was shot in the stomach during a December altercation over the fetus’s father.

Jones was five months pregnant when 23-year-old Ebony Jemison shot her in the stomach, authorities said.

Jemison was initially charged with manslaughter, but a Jefferson County grand jury declined to indict her after police said an investigation determined Jones started the fight, and Jemison ultimately fired in self-defense. Jones was indicted by that same grand jury.

The indictment stated Jones did “intentionally cause the death” of “Unborn Baby Jones by initiating a fight knowing she was five months pregnant.”

The indictment sparked international outrage including among those who attended the press conference in Bessemer.

“We are calling out our legislators of Birmingham, the DA, and the prosecutors in this case and demanding that the dignity of Ms. Jones be fully restored by the dropping of this charge,” said Rodreshia Russaw, of The Ordinary Peoples Society (TOPS). “We have had enough, our dignity is our human right. We refuse to let our sisters suffer . . .  especially after an unintentional loss of a fetus…we stand with Ms. Jones and her family and we will see that justice is served.”

A Birmingham attorney said this week she plans to file a motion to dismiss charges against Jones. Hope S. Marshall, an attorney at White Arnold & Dowd, said the firm would be representing Jones.

“Marshae has been subjected to extraordinary violence, trauma and loss over the past year,” the firm said in a statement, adding that Jones recently lost her home to a fire and lost her job. “Now, for reasons that defy imagination, she faces an unprecedented legal action that subjects this victim of violence to further distress and harm.”

The law firm also noted that Jones has no criminal history and is raising a young daughter.

From left: Rose Sanders, SOS Movement for Justice and Democracy; Catrena Norris Carter, Women United Now; Sheila Tyson, Jefferson County Commissioner and Convener, Alabama Black Women’s Roundtable and Rodreishia Russaw, The Ordinary Peoples Society at press conference for Marshae Jones. (Ameera Steward, The Birmingham Times)

 Carter said the nation’s prison population continues to grow because of unjust laws.

 “We already know how much the prison population of women has increased here in Alabama and across this country over the last decade…with mass incarceration, this is yet again one more thing that is going to be locking up our young women and specifically as it relates to women of color,” she said. 

She added that Jones should be mourning the loss of her child not wondering whether she will have her freedom revoked, “we all make mistakes, we all get into confrontations.”

Sheila Tyson, Jefferson County Commissioner who is also a member of Alabama Black Women’s Roundtable, said, “They [Jones’ family] are very upset because she’s at a very fragile state in her life. Her house burned down right after the miscarriage…she lost her job, she lost her baby, now her and her boyfriend aren’t together, now the shooter has gotten off…can you imagine that on your mind?”

“The precedent that’s being set is dangerous, it’s dangerous to black women,” Tyson added. “We must move away from the system that has placed undo blame on the victim and individuals. This is another way of criminalizing women and the reproductive justice system.”

She said that Jones is still grieving mentally and hurting physically over the loss of her child . . . “justice will not be denied for this young black woman,” Tyson said. “And that’s why many women from many organizations from around the state of Alabama, we have come together today…to stand in unity for Ms. Jones.”

The Associated Press contributed to this post.