Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant from Shanghai, was charged March 14, 2011, with the murder of her daughter, Angel, by Marion County, Ind.
According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office report, Shuai was eight months pregnant when she attempted suicide Dec. 23, 2010, by consuming rat poison. Investigators discovered that she attempted suicide because her boyfriend the and father of her baby, Zhi Liang Quan, abandoned her. She survived the poison. Her baby, however, who was born Dec. 31 via caesarian section, died from a cerebral hemorrhage three days later. Due to the unnatural and sudden death of the baby, hospital doctors reported the incident to the police with the suspicion that Shuai may be responsible.
Shuai was taken into custody in Marion County Jail for 14 months without bail. Although Shuai was released in May 2012, the Supreme Court of Indiana refused to dismiss the charges. Meanwhile, the defendant refused to accept the plea bargain of taking a feticide charge (maximum sentence 20 years in prison) instead of a murder charge (maximum sentence 45 years in prison) and claimed her innocence.
Marion County Judge Sheila Carlisle scheduled Shuai’s trial for Sept. 3, 2013. The prosecution assigned Terry Curry, the chief prosecutor of Marion County, to Shuai’s case. On the other side, Linda Pence, an experienced defense attorney, is defending Shuai.
I believe this case definitely opened the Pandora’s box of women’s rights. Based on the verdict of this trial, pro-life and pro-choice advocates can both either strengthen or weaken their arguments on abortion’s legality. Therefore, it is obvious that women’s rights groups ought to advocate for a verdict of “not guilty” through protesting against the prosecution and creating petitions for her innocence. I do understand that this case is very crucial; it represents one of the most controversial issues in the United States. However, we should not forget that the duty of this nation’s judicial branch is to bring justice to everyone who rightfully deserves punishment or compensation. Therefore, we must not let external circumstances cloud fair judicial rulings in this case. Furthermore, it is indeed very painful and cruel to force a woman who lost her newborn daughter to go through the intense procedures of a criminal court. If she truly deserves the punishment for murder or feticide, the judge should not hesitate to declare her guilty.
On the other hand, if she is not guilty, not only does she need to be treated properly, but the government and interest groups should also cooperate to help any pregnant women who are experiencing psychological difficulties. Every mother has the right to protect and successfully deliver a new life.
After reviewing the facts written by Pence, I came into doubt that the baby died because of her mother’s attempted suicide. I will review the situation of Shuai at the time of attempt of suicide. She was experiencing severe depression from her breakup with her boyfriend just before the tragic incident. While she was pregnant, she attempted suicide at least three times in front of her boyfriend before that. Clearly, anybody might think about killing oneself after being left alone with a heavy burden. However, Shuai was not in an ordinary situation at all; the baby was almost fully grown in her womb. Obviously, she was aware of the baby’s existence and the consequence of her action. Anybody with even the slightest maternal love would think again if the suicide attempt would have cost the life of a baby.
Yes, it is true that her mental state might have been so extreme that she did not consider her baby, but when she was rescued by her friends and taken to a hospital, she did not refuse treatment. Moreover, testimony from hospital employees stating that she sincerely cooperated with doctors was more than enough to prove that her maternal love was real. How does this contradiction occur?
Regarding the rat poison, it is roughly 60 times stronger than any regulated poison. Chinese women have traditionally used it to ensure quick and definite death. Rat poison does not have an expiration date and is just as deadly no matter how old it is. Miraculously, the poison did not kill Shuai. She recovered completely in a matter of days, and her baby survived for at least three days, which is remarkable considering the damage that rat poison can do to a baby.
The question arises: If the poison was not enough to kill both of them, did Shuai underdose? I seriously doubt that she mistakenly consumed less poison because studies have shown that people who commit suicide with poison often use a large dose to ensure a quick and relatively painless death. If she intentionally consumed less rat poison to survive, why would she risk her baby’s life?
With limited information, I will not jump to conclusions. However, I do wish for the truth alone to be revealed in this case. In order to obtain the truth, the judge should exclude the external matter of woman’s rights even if this matter is very crucial politically.
Alex Cho is a political science major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected].