Bei Bei Shuai Rejects Plea Deal: She “Wants To Clear Her Name”


Bei Bei Shuai spent over a year in jail, held without bail for the charge of “murdering” her unborn baby by ingesting rat poison while attempting suicide. The state repeatedly denied her request for bail, stating that it is never offered in murder cases.

Eventually, she was allowed out on bond while she awaited her trial. Now, Indiana courts are offering her a chance to plea down to “attempted feticide,” a deal that would massively reduce the amount of time she could spend in jail if she is found guilty.

Shuai says no way.

Via ABC News:

Bei Bei Shuai turned down prosecutors’ offer to drop a murder charge if she pleads 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 even 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 wants to clear her name and avoid the stigma of guilt.

“She intends to fight these charges vigorously,” Pence said. “She doesn’t want any other woman to go through what she has gone through.”

After so adamantly refusing to drop the case, or even allowing Shuai bail, why would the prosecutors now be interested in offering a plea? Could it be that they had been looking for a case to set a precedent for charging pregnant women who “murder” their fetuses in utero, and are determined to get a feticide example into the books one way or another?

There is definitely some other motive driving the efforts in the prosecutors office. The chief prosecutor, Terry Curry, attempted to have an ethics complaint filed against Pence for statements made while Pence solicited donations to Shuai’s legal defense fund, saying Pence’s words were an attempt to “prejudice the potential jury pool.” It was an accusation that other legal advisers saw as the state trying to intimidate Shuai’s lawyer. Richard Kammen, a member of the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers, told The Guardian:

“This strikes me as being way outside what a prosecutor should be doing. Given the numerous public statements about this case made by the prosecutor, it makes you wonder what the agenda might be – is it to intimidate her or prevent her raising money?”

This isn’t the first attempt at intimidation from the office, either. Leaving Shuai in prison with no bail for over a year was one form, and attempting to get her to plea down to feticide by threatening her with a 45- to 65-year prison term under a murder charge is another.

Was the prosecutor’s office searching for a test case for the feticide law? A white paper supplied by Pence’s firm may support that idea. It notes that this is in fact the first time in Indiana history that a pregnant woman has ever been charged with the death of her unborn child, and the discretion that the prosecutor’s office had on whether or not to press charges in the first place. 

Mr. Curry did not seek counsel from psychiatrists, physicians, or other professionals who have dedicated their lives to maternal and fetal health, nor was he interested in meeting with Ms. Shuai’s defense counsel and considering legal issues and facts which should have been considered by a prosecutor interested in understanding the implications of his momentous charging decision.  Instead, he listened and built a case based on the inaccurate, unscientific, and discredited autopsy report, prepared by a relatively inexperienced pathologist who was employed by a private entity named “Biblical Dogs.” 

Between the investigation into Shuai beginning almost immediately after the death of her fetus three days after birth, an autopsy report that didn’t appear to fully explore other potential causes for the brain hemorrhage that eventually killed her, and a refusal to consider bail for over a year followed up by dangling a potential suspended sentence versus spending the rest of her life in prison, all signs point to a prosecutor who wanted a feticide plea before the case ever fully got underway.

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  • julie-watkins

    all signs point to a prosecutor who wanted

    I think Terry Curry is an elected official. This case just shows how prosecutors have too much power and discression and immunity against repercussions for systemic discrimination. And people harp about “activist judges”. There should be just as much hue and cry about prosecutors that go about ruining people’s lives for political gain.

    What a creep. And I don’t think there’s any way to punish him for acting so self-serving.

  • coralsea

    Julie — I live in Illinois and we have seen our share of prosecutors who continue to pursue the prosecution (and fight to continue to incarcerate obviously innocent people) long after any sane person would do so.  I am speaking of the Jeanine Nicarico and Holly Staker murders.  Particularly in the case of Jeanine Nicarico, police were well aware of who (a man named Gary Dugan) committed the abduction, rape, and murder of this little girl, but they couldn’t find him.  Instead, the glommed on to several dummies who thought they could collect a reward by making up tips.  The resulting freak show involved two more murders by Dugan, who was allowed to continue to roam, and four separate trials and convictions of Rolando Cruz for the Nicarico murder — all years after Dugan confessed to killing the little girl (and the killing indeed followed his M.O. and his car was seen in the vicinity of the Nicarico’s home).  Cruz was ultimately set free, but only after close to two decades of incarceration.  Among the “collateral damage”: the Nicarico family (during the initial news coverage, the mother was slammed for being a work when her little girl, who was home with the flu, was abducted), who, as far as I know, still believe that Rolando Cruz did the murder or was ”involved” in it (last coverage I saw of this horrific mess, the prosecutor, who has since been elevated to judge, still insisted that, yeah, okay, Dugan was involved, but Cruz was definitely involved, too).

     

    Since this was one of several cases like this in Illinois at the time–and was one of the reasons then-governor George Ryan suspended the death penalty in the state–there was a lot of coverage of prosecutor malfesance.  According to the coverage, nationally, prosecutors apparently are never held to account for wrongful prosecution.  In the Nicarico case, the prosecutors and some law enforcment officers were put on trial, I believe at the insistence of the families of the people Dugan killed after Jeanine Nicarico, who believed that, if the prosecutors hadn’t been so anxious to wrap up the case and had bothered to hunt down Dugan, their loved ones wouldn’t have died.  Predictably, despite a lot of damning news coverage, the prosecutors and others involved in the Nicarico case were acquitted.  One went on to become a judge.  About the only real fallout hit the original prosecutor, Jim Ryan (no relation to George Ryan), who was sufficiently tarred by association that he lost the Governor’s race to another Illinois charmer — Rod Blagojevich (we really know how to pick ‘em).

     

    I can understand prosecutors being zealous — that is something you would want (within reason).  I don’t understand how, when it is so clear they are wrong, they continue to move forward with their cases.   And I REALLY don’t understand why, when they jump the tracks and head into disasterland, it is so difficult to rein them in or hold them to account.

     

    In this particular case, though, I think that Curry is pursuing a religious and political agenda on the back of Bei Bei Shuai.  This is especially loathsome, and something that, it seems to me, is worthy of a federal investigation into abuse of power.

  • coralsea

    As someone who suffers from depression — but is fortunate to be able to afford a medication that works well to control it — I find this case to be particularly appalling because of the lack of acknowledgement of Bei Bei Shuai’s mental state.  The poor woman tried to kill herself!  With rat poison!  That was no “suicidal gesture,” and it is amazing that she survived.

     

    What is wrong with this prosector?  Is he living in the 19th Century (or maybe the 14th, and is of the opinion that mental illness is caused by Witches and Demons)?  If he isn’t so stupid that he is unaware of the toll depression can take, and understand that this woman was basically under serious mental duress, then he is very obviously pursuing a political/religious agenda–at the expense of a woman who needed treatment, not punishment.

     

    I so hope that Bei Bei Shuai has been given treatment for her depression (if it was depression and not some other hormonal issue).  No one who has ever suffered from a major depressive episode could possibly blame her; depression is a dark, dank tunnel of despair and dark thoughts that grind one down, and my thoughts are with her.  I didn’t use rat poison, but I tried to commit suicide once, too, and I still remember that very dark place, and I am aware, because I have an illness, that I could end up back there again if my medication stops working or I am no longer able to afford it.

     

    It is unfortunate–criminal, actually–that Mr. Curry appears to be more concerned with pursuing a religious agenda and political ambitions than seeking actual justice.  Certainly, his time would be better spent looking into why this woman’s situation was so desperate and why it is so damned hard in this country to get help — medical and physical (the little things, food, housing).  If he wants to save fetuses, he would do a lot more to save them by insuring that pregnant women who are in need of assistance are able to get it, including assistance with depression.

  • julie-watkins

    … but I wasn’t as politically aware back then. But there are some more current examples I’m fumming about. Plus the racial bias aspect of a prosecutor’s “discresion”, grump.

  • coralsea

    Yes — It’s a real problem when it happens.  It doesn’t appear that there are adequate protections in place for DEFENDANTS when a prosecutor strays seriously out-of-bounds.  Prosecutors may be censured by bar associations, but I don’t think that this necessarily means that the defendant is automatically set free.  I am not an attorney, so I don’t have as good a grasp of this as I wish that I did.  I do know, however, that one of the Supreme Court Justices (either Alito or Scalia) wrote some majority decision to the effect that simply being innocent is sufficient to call for a new trial (one has to have something called “reversible error,” which means some procedural flaw).  To my mind, this is monstrous (but then so are Alito and Scalia).

     

    All I know is that God help anyone who falls into the clutches of our legal system.  Unless you can afford an incredibly expensive defense, who knows how it will work out?  And if you are wrongfully convicted, you may or may not ever get a chance to clear your name.  It really shouldn’t be this way.  Considering how many “murderers” end up being exonerated, you have to wonder how many people are wrongfully convicted of lesser offenses, like robbery or burglary, where the stakes are lower.  Considering the incarceration rates of African-Americans and some other minorities, I am willing to bet that many of them are serving time (and otherwise having their futures stolen from them — considering how few employment opportunities they will have when they get out) for crimes they had nothing to do with.

     

    However, I do think that prosecutor Curry rises (or sinks) to a new level in this case, considering that he appears to be motivated by religious and/or political objectives rather than simply applying the law stupidly.

  • adolmd

    This case is incredible! This woman has spent already 1 year in jail awaiting trial? for something that happened as a result of a suicide attempt?

     

    She needs mental health care, not jail time. and she isn’t even a US citizen. You have to wonder about the crazy agenda in Indiana and if there is any trace of racism.