Free Adora Perez & Stop Criminalizing Substance Use Disorders

Free Adora Perez & Stop Criminalizing Substance Use Disorders

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Emily Williams started this petition to California Office of the Attorney General CA Attorney General Rob Bonta and

On the evening of December 31, 2017, Adora Perez gave birth to a stillborn baby at Adventist Medical Center in Hanford, California. Doctors concluded the baby had died as a result of extensive drug use by Perez and advised an officer dispatched to the hospital by the Hanford Police Department that Perez had tested positive for methamphetamine and THC.

Perez was arrested the morning after she gave birth, on New Year’s Day. She was prosecuted under a 1970 amendment to the CA penal code intended to prosecute people who attack pregnant women with the intention of killing their fetuses. The amendment was meant to protect pregnant women from harm, not charge them with murder.

Adora Perez pleaded no contest to a charge of voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea agreement. Soon after, she hired a new attorney, who filed a motion to withdraw the plea. Perez had not understood what she was doing and her court-appointed public defender neither investigated her baby’s death nor discussed potential defenses with her.

A Kings County Superior Court judge denied the motion and sent Perez to prison for 11 years.

After that, the lawyer whom Perez had already paid $10,000, filed a notice of appeal with the court and then stopped returning the family’s phone calls.

Hanford is located in Kings County where 20% of residents live in poverty, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Kings County is in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, the state's agricultural center. The same routes that help make the San Joaquin Valley one of the world’s agricultural hubs also help bring in narcotics. It has become a hub for meth distribution in the U.S., according to federal law enforcement officials.

Addiction should be treated as an illness, not a crime. Myriad studies show that people who have suffered repeated abuse self-medicate in order to numb or escape from their trauma. Incarcerating traumatized people does nothing to treat the underlying causes nor does it address addiction.

Disturbingly, Kings County D.A. Keith Fagundes has charged another woman, Chelsea Becker, with the same crime after she gave birth to a stillborn baby at the same hospital in September 2019. On August 7, 2020, CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amicus brief to intervene on her behalf, but has said nothing about Perez's case. 

We call upon the CA Attorney General to intervene in the case of Adora Perez and the CA Governor to commute her prison sentence, and ensure that she receives substance use disorder services and other supportive services. 

We call upon the CA State Legislature to amend Section 187 of the CA Penal Code to put a stop to the punitive prosecution of women who are already deeply traumatized after having delivered a stillborn child.

We call upon the Kings County D.A. to cease prosecution of Chelsea Becker and other mothers who test positive for narcotics. In lieu of prosecution, the D.A. should utilize his role on the Kings County Behavioral Health Advisory Board to support more efficient expenditures of Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funding to implement contemporary, evidence-based practices to divert mothers who test positive for narcotics away from the criminal justice system and into detoxification, rehabilitation, mental health, and other supportive services, with monitoring as-needed.

We call upon the Kings County Board of Supervisors to implement a criminal justice diversion model to stem the damage caused by rising addiction rates, especially during the current economic downturn, and ensure that people with treatable substance use disorders receive the help they need rather than encounter further harm and victimization by cycling in and out of the criminal justice system. 


People v. Perez, F077851, 2 (Cal. Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2019)

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