BREAKING: Purvi Patel Released After Appeals Court Overturns Feticide Conviction

Purvi Patel (Photo credit: Lawrence Marshall)
Purvi Patel (Photo credit: Lawrence Marshall)

Just over a month after her feticide conviction was overturned by an Indiana Appeals Court, Purvi Patel has been freed.

Patel had been charged and convicted of the conflicting charges of feticide (actions leading to the death of a fetus) and child neglect (neglect of a living infant) after suffering what she describes was a miscarriage that resulted in the loss of her 25-week-old fetus. Patel was the first woman in Indiana to be successfully tried under the state’s new feticide laws after the law was also used to pursue charges against another pregnant Asian American woman who had lost her fetus, even though Indiana’s feticide law had originally been passed to protect pregnant women from domestic abuse resulting in loss of their pregnancy. After a much publicized trial, Patel’s guilty verdict resulted in a 20 year jail sentence that outraged feminists and reproductive rights activists (myself included).

Earlier this summer, an Indiana Appeals Court reexamined the case against Patel, and ruled that the feticide law had been inappropriately applied beyond the scope of its original intent. The appeals judge in Patel’s case wrote in the favorable decision, “given that the legislature decriminalized abortion with respect to pregnant women only two years before it enacted the feticide statute, we conclude that the legislature never intended the feticide statute to apply to pregnant women.”

In overturning Patel’s feticide conviction, the Appeals Court also remanded her case back to the lower courts with instructions to reclassify her conviction from a Class A to a Class D felony child neglect charge, which not only comes with drastically shortened sentencing guidelines but also opened up the possibility of Patel having her charge further lessened from a felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

The State elected not to appeal the Indiana Appeals Court’s decision in the matter, meaning that Patel’s fate awaited a new decision from the St. Joseph Superior Court.

In a ruling handed down yesterday morning from that court, Judge Elizabeth C. Hurley amended Patel’s sentence to 18 months in jail for a Class D child neglect felony. Patel had been in jail since the summer of 2013, meaning that she has long served beyond an 18-month jail sentence.

Reflecting that fact, Patel was released today from Indiana Women’s Prison to a crowd of over thirty supporters. Reports the Indiana Star:

Her attorney, Lawrence Marshall, said Patel is “very, very joyful that this day has come,” but that she now needs privacy so that she can focus on rebuilding her life.

“For right now, she needs to recover from what is obviously a traumatic several years,” said Marshall, a Stanford University law professor. “She has to take her life and try to make something meaningful out of all the wreckage that got her here.”

Patel’s release was secured in part by the tireless efforts of activist organizations like the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). To thank them for their work, you can donate to NAPAWF here or send a donation to another of your favourite reproductive justice non-profits. There is no word yet on a new fundraiser for Patel and/or her family.

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