OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today applauded the Kings County Superior Court’s decision to grant Adora Perez’s motion to vacate both her 11-year prison term and criminal conviction against her for the loss of her pregnancy. Adora Perez was one of two women in Kings County wrongfully charged with murder under California Penal Code Section 187 for her pregnancy loss. To avoid the potential penalties associated with that murder charge, Ms. Perez originally pled to a voluntary manslaughter charge under California Penal Code Section 192 and was sentenced to prison. Today's court decision confirms that the conviction under Penal Code Section 192 is unlawful and orders Ms. Perez’s immediate release from prison and transfer to county jail. The court directs the parties to appear for a hearing on April 6, 2022, when Ms. Perez will have the opportunity to argue that murder under Section 187 does not cover the conduct or omissions of pregnant persons resulting in stillbirth. Chelsea Becker, the second woman charged with murder after suffering a stillbirth, had her case dismissed in May 2021 by a Kings County Superior Court judge.
“This decision is a good first step towards affirming what we know to be true, no woman should be penalized for the loss of her pregnancy,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The court has issued the beginning of an overdue course correction, confirming that Ms. Perez cannot be charged with manslaughter due to the loss of her pregnancy. As we've repeatedly explained, the remaining murder charge is unlawful, and we will continue to support Ms. Perez in her fight to challenge that charge. Bottom line: Pregnant individuals will be protected by the law, not criminalized by it.”
In December 2017, Ms. Perez suffered a stillbirth at a hospital in Kings County. Shortly after, she was charged by the District Attorney with murder under California Penal Code Section 187, allegedly for causing the death of a fetus through drug use. As a result of the enormous potential penalty from the murder charge, Ms. Perez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. During the course of Ms. Perez’s challenges to her convictions, Attorney General Bonta argued that both the text of Section 187 and evidence of the intent of the Legislature confirm that California's laws do not criminalize a woman’s own actions that might result in a pregnancy loss.
Attorney General Bonta has been a staunch defender against the wrongful criminalization of pregnancy loss. Prior to today’s court ruling, in January, Attorney General Bonta issued a legal alert advising all California district attorneys, police chiefs, and sheriffs that Section 187 of the California Penal Code was intended to hold accountable those who inflict harm on pregnant individuals, resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth. As Attorney General Bonta advised, Section 187 was not meant to punish people who suffer the loss of their own pregnancies.
A copy of the Kings County Superior Court’s decision is available here.