Mississippi Mom May Get Life in Jail for Stillborn Baby


Rennie Gibbs is possibly facing a lifetime in jail because she gave birth to a stillborn baby in Mississippi.

According to ProPublica, Gibbs was 16 years old in 2006 when she gave birth to a baby girl whose umbilical cord was wrapped around her throat.

The baby was born a month early and died without taking a breath.

An autopsy of the infant revealed that traces of a cocaine byproduct, benzoylecgonine, reports Slate.com.

Steven Hayne, who performed the autopsy, claimed the baby's death was a homicide caused by “cocaine toxicity.”

However, ProPublic notes, "Despite having failed to complete his certification test by the American Board of Pathology, Hayne not only practiced for two decades in Mississippi and nearby states, but by his own estimate he performed as many as 1,800 autopsies a year..."

Nevertheless, Gibbs was indicted for “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” causing the death the infant.

A forensic pathologist hired by Gibbs' defense team found, "It is impossible to conclude from the very small amount of benzoylecgonine that the stillbirth was caused by cocaine toxicity."

Under Mississippi's "fetal harm" laws, Gibbs could get a life sentence when she goes on trial this spring, unless a judge throws the case out.

Ironically, the State of Mississippi ranks as one of worst for maternal and infant health in the U.S., according to the National Women's Law Center.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2013 on several studies that did not find babies were significantly harmed by a mother's cocaine use. The results shocked researchers who were expecting to find the "crack-head baby" stereotype that began in the 1980s.

One federally funded study that went for ten years found no significant differences between the cocaine-exposed children and children who were not exposed.

Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer, National Women's Law Center, ProPublica, Slate.com


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