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The California District Attorney who prosecuted women after stillbirths has been ousted

Abortion-rights supporters chant their objections at the Kentucky Capitol on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky., Kentucky is one of at least four states with abortion-related ballot measures in 2022.

AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner, File

  • Keith Fagundes, District Attorney in California’s Kings County, lost his June 9 primary election.
  • Fagundes charged Adora Perez and Chelsea Becker with murder, claiming they caused their stillbirths.
  • Fagundes’ challenger campaigned against the charges, which were also criticized by California’s AG. 

Keith Fagundes, the California District Attorney who pursued murder charges against two women he claimed caused their stillbirths by using drugs while pregnant, was ousted from his position during the state’s primary election on June 9. 

Fagundes lost his seat as Kings County DA to challenger Sarah Hacker by at least 15% of the vote, ABC30 reported. 

The cases of Chelsea Becker and Adora Perez, who both experienced stillbirths after struggling with drug addiction during their pregnancies, were central issues to the election. Despite California law specifically excluding pregnant people from being charged with the murder of their own fetus, Fagundes claimed the women’s drug use caused their stillbirths and charged them both. 

Perez, who pled guilty to manslaughter to avoid a longer sentence, had her 11-year sentence overturned after serving four years in jail. Becker, who could not afford bail while awaiting trial, spent 16 months in jail before her charges were dismissed. 

“Those two cases, they’re a symptom of the disease,” Hacker, the Hanford lawyer who beat Fagundes in the primary election, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “And the disease that has infected our criminal justice system here in Kings County is preferential treatment.”

Hacker wasn’t the only legal mind with concerns about Fagundes’ choice to charge the women. California’s Attorney General, Rob Bonta, issued a statement in January clarifying the state law and condemning the charges against them.

“The loss of a pregnancy at any stage is a physically and emotionally traumatic experience that should not be exacerbated by the threat of being charged with murder,” Bonta said in the statement. “The charges against Ms. Becker and Ms. Perez were not consistent with the law, and this misuse of section 187 should not be repeated. With reproductive rights under attack in this country, it is important that we make it clear: Here in California, we do not criminalize the loss of a pregnancy.”

Fagundes agreed to an interview with Insider prior to the primary election. He stopped responding to requests for comment after election results became available.

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