A woman originally charged with murder for allegedly delaying a Caesarean section that could have saved one of her twins was sentenced Thursday to 18 months of probation for lesser counts of child endangerment.
Prosecutors dropped their capital murder charge against Melissa Ann Rowland earlier this month based on her “mental health history.” Rowland pleaded guilty to two third-degree felony counts of child endangerment and admitted using cocaine in the weeks before she underwent the C-section in January that produced a stillborn boy.
The second child, a girl who survived and has been adopted, was found with cocaine and alcohol in her system. Rowland’s drug use while pregnant was the basis for the child endangerment charges.
Rowland also agreed to enter a drug treatment program in Indiana, her attorney Michael Sikora said. Rowland did not speak during the hearing.
Murder charge protested
Prosecutors, who were harshly criticized by women’s groups, have said they dropped the murder charge based on Rowland’s “mental health history.” But they’ve offered no details of that history, citing the case’s pending status.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office defended the initial decision to file the murder charge, claiming the state only subsequently learned of Rowland’s mental illness and that prosecutors don’t have the resources to probe the mental health of all defendants before charges are filed.
Some women’s advocacy groups said Rowland should never have been targeted for having a drug problem, nor allowed to linger in jail where she couldn’t receive needed mental health services.