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Trial Set for Mom Accused of Giving Cocaine to Fetus

June 27, 1989

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) _ A woman charged with giving her baby cocaine while she was pregnant will be tried next month, despite arguments by defense lawyers that drug laws do not apply to the unborn.

Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr. refused to dismiss charges against Jennifer Clarise Johnson, 23, who gave birth in January to a girl with traces of cocaine in her system. In 1987, she gave birth to a son who also was exposed to cocaine.

The unmarried mother is believed to be the second in Florida to be arrested under the drug-delivery law, normally used to prosecute drug dealers. It carries a maximum 30-year sentence.

The other woman, Toni Hudson, 29, was arrested after giving birth in November to a boy with traces of cocaine in his system.

Ms. Hudson appeared in court Monday and pleaded no contest to possession of cocaine. Prosecutors dropped te delivery charge and charges of child abuse, saying her case posed technical problems. She faces 22 months to five years in prison.

Ms. Johnson refused to comment after her hearing Monday before Judge Eaton, who schleduled her trial for July 26.

She said earlier she was sorry but did not believe criminal prosecution would help her. She lives at a drug treatment center and her aunt and mother care for her four children.

Assistant State Attorney Jeff Deen contends that such prosecutions are a way to hold mothers responsible for drug use.

″She’s had this (drug) problem for many years, and she continued to have cocaine babies,″ Deen said Tuesday. ″That’s one of the reasons we decided to prosecute this case.″

But her lawyer and attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida contend the drug-delivery law applies only to people and a fetus is not a person under the law.

Babies of cocaine-using mothers are usually born prematurely, have lower birth weights, face a greater risk of being stillborn and have a higher rate of neurological problems, according to medical research.

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