Rennie Gibbs, a teenager in Mississippi, was charged with murder seven years ago after prosecutors determined the baby that she was carrying died as the result of her cocaine use.
Slate reports that Gibbs gave birth to a daughter, Sumiya, in 2006. Tragically, the baby girl was stillborn, the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Steven Hayne, the medical examiner in the case, found trace amounts of benzoylecgonine, which is a cocaine byproduct, in Sumiya’s bloodstream, although no cocaine was found in her body. Rennie, who had admitted to cocaine use, was charged with “"unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” killing her own child.
Although the defense has made several attempts to get the case thrown out, calling several expert medical witnesses who have stated that evidence linking cocaine use during pregnancy with "serious fetal harms, birth defects, or serious long-term physical or developmental impairments," is inconclusive, prosecutors have made a compelling case.
Medical examiner Hayne is also a controversial figure. Mississippi and other states have called him in to do several autopsies, despite the fact that he never completed his certification test for the American Board of Pathology. There have been rumors that Haynes’ work is sloppy and that the medical conclusions he has drawn are more political than motivated by science. Haynes was involved in at least four other murder convictions that have since been overturned, including one involving an innocent man accused of killing a 3-year-old girl.
Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the country. According to CNN, poverty, poor nutrition, and lack of education are all contributing factors. Despite this, sex education is not taught in the state, and conservative Republican leadership voted to not expand healthcare coverage to at-risk mothers and children.
If found guilty, Rennie Gibbs could face life in prison.