The 11-year prison sentence of Adora Perez—who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 2018 after initially being charged with murder due to a stillbirth—was overturned Wednesday by a California court. The ruling mandates that Perez be immediately released from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s custody.
Legally, it’s as if Perez is returning to 2018 and the original complaint. And because the murder charge in the criminal complaint is reinstated, Perez must be returned to Kings County Jail in Hanford, California. Her next appearance in court is scheduled for April 6.
One of Perez’s attorneys, Audrey Barron, told Jezebel that Perez’s legal team will be requesting bail.
Here’s the full statement from Perez’s legal team:
“Adora Perez did not commit any crime, yet she has served more than four years in prison. We are very grateful that Judge Chrissakis overturned Ms. Perez’s plea to manslaughter, which was illegal. Unfortunately, she remains in custody and is once again facing a murder charge in Kings County. We will be asking the court to release Ms. Perez on bail while we work to dismiss the murder case. The Attorney General has made clear that a woman in California cannot be prosecuted for suffering a stillbirth, and we hope that the Kings County District Attorney will follow the law and dismiss the case against Ms. Perez promptly.”
The original murder charge still stands because the ruling found that Perez’s plea was invalid due to a new appellate case, People v. Richardson, which holds that a judge cannot accept a negotiated plea that is factually impossible. Perez was accused of murder in December 2017 after she gave birth at 37 weeks to a stillborn fetus and admitted to methamphetamine use during pregnancy. Eventually, she pleaded to voluntary manslaughter. But, in California, there is no such thing as manslaughter of a fetus.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said this case is a “vindication” and should be a clarifying moment for people. “One of the things that this case should remind people is the connection between the fight for reproductive justice and criminal justice,” she told Jezebel. “In no context should one be sitting in jail because they were coerced by the criminal law system to plead guilty to a crime that doesn’t exist.”
While Perez’s legal team prepares for the April hearing, Perez’s situation has the support of the highest levels of California’s legal system. In January, California Attorney General Rob Bonta clarified that Section 187, which Perez was prosecuted under, was being misused; it was intended to prosecute people accused of harming pregnant people, not pregnant people themselves. “This misuse of section 187 should not be repeated,” Bonta said in a statement. “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.”
On Thursday, Bonta “applauded” the decision to vacate the 11-year prison sentence and conviction against Perez. “This decision is a good first step towards affirming what we know to be true, no woman should be penalized for the loss of her pregnancy,” he said.
As she waits to hear whether her bail will be granted, Perez must remain in custody until, it is hoped, the murder charge against her is dismissed—or a trial date is set.