Miami, FL – A Florida appeals court denied an emergency petition to have an inmate at the Miami-Dade jail’s unborn baby released from custody.
The baby’s mother – 24-year-old Natalia Harrell – has been incarcerated since July when she was charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of another woman, WTVJ reported.
Harrell was six-weeks pregnant when she allegedly murdered 28-year-old Gladys Borcela during an argument in an Uber on July 23, 2022, The Washington Post reported.
If convicted, Harrell is facing up to life in prison.
She has been held at the Miami-Dade Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center for seven months, The Washington Post reported.
Her petition seeking to have the fetus released from incarceration claimed the jail staff has refused her prenatal care and endangered the life of her baby, WTVJ reported.
The habeas corpus petition filed on Feb. 23 claimed claims detention center employees have refused to provide medical care or transport Harrell to scheduled medical appointments, The Washington Post reported.
It also claimed the pregnant inmate hasn’t seen an obstetrician-gynecologist since October of 2022.
The writ claimed jail employees failed to provide the inmate with prenatal vitamins to assist in the fetus’s development, The Washington Post reported.
“Absent immediate release of UNBORN CHILD from the custody of Respondents, UNBORN CHILD will be likely brought into this world on the concrete floor of the prison cell, without the aid of qualified medical physicians and paramedics, and in the presence of violent criminals,” the petition read.
Harrell’s attorneys filed the writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the fetus in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal last week, The Washington Post reported.
The lawyers argued that the baby was being improperly jailed, WTVJ reported.
“An unborn child has rights independent of its mother, even though it’s still in the womb,” attorney William Norris told The Washington Post. “The unborn child has been deprived of due process of law in this incarceration. You simply have to have the unborn child as a factor in the equation.”
Norris’s argument was that Harrell’s “unborn child is a person as defined under the Florida Constitution and United States Constitution,” is reminiscent of the concept of fetal personhood, the belief that a fetus is a person entitled to constitutional protections.
But Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office filed a motion to have the petition on behalf of the unborn baby dismissed, The Washington Post reported.
And on Friday, the Florida Third District Court of Appeals dismissed the emergency petition, WTVJ reported.
The appeals court said it wasn’t dismissing the case on its merits but rather because it needed to be decided first in a lower court.
“Because the petition is filed without a record to establish a factual basis and because consideration of this petition will be factually intensive, we follow Supreme Court precedent and exercise our discretion to dismiss the petition without prejudice to a remedy being pursued in a circuit court,” the order from Judge Thomas Logue, with Judge Fleur Lobree concurring, read.
Judge Monica Gordo, who concurred in part and dissented in part, called the claimed the unborn child was being unlawfully detained “illogical,” WTVJ reported.
“No more could the government be accused of unlawfully detaining the unborn child in this case than could the mother be guilty of kidnapping over interstate lines if she chose to visit her grandmother in Georgia while eight months pregnant. The argument is illogical,” Gordo wrote.
“The mother comes to us as a badly disguised Trojan Horse,” she continued. “In fact, the argument is nothing more than an attempt for the mother to leverage her unborn child as a basis to be released from lawful detention.”
Gordo wrote that the unborn child was entitled to representation but said Florida law “recognizes that a mother’s lawful incarceration may result in an unborn child—in utero—being in a correctional facility,” according to WTVJ.