California woman cleared of murder after baby died in home birth

​The mother, 34-year-old Kelsey Carpenter, had been facing a life sentence in a case that sparked national outrage.

Prison guard walks through a jail

A California woman has been cleared of murder three years after her baby died in a home birth, according to reports. 

The mother, 34-year-old Kelsey Carpenter, had been facing a life sentence in a case that sparked national outrage.

In November 2020, Carpenter was arrested for child endangerment after giving birth alone in her apartment. She passed out from blood loss and awoke to find her newborn baby dead, according to The Daily Beast.

A coroner ruled the death an accident, but attributed the baby's death to "methamphetamine and buprenorphine exposure and unattended delivery," The Daily Beast said. Carpenter had been receiving treatment for substance abuse, and law enforcement officials acknowledged in court that it was not illegal for her to use buprenorphine, an addiction medication, nor was it illegal to have an unattended delivery.

Despite state law prohibiting the prosecution of women for pregnancy losses, San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan charged Carpenter with murder "with malice," according to The Guardian.

After years of legal battles, prosecutors dropped the murder charge last month and Carpenter pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of child endangerment, which comes with a two-year prison sentence. Her attorneys said with time already served in jail, she could be released by January with no probationary conditions, The Daily Beast said.

Carpenter spoke out in a statement from jail on Sunday.

"I don't want other pregnant women to experience what, for me, was the worst experience of my life," Carpenter told The Guardian. "I lost my child, and then I was prosecuted."

While behind bars, Carpenter has been mourning the loss of her baby, whom she named Kiera.

"I am still stunned and horrified that a person could have the biggest tragedy of their life and lose a child who was loved and was so wanted, and then be charged with such a horrible crime," Carpenter had told The Guardian in a statement from jail in March. "I had cherished the idea of this baby and was totally committed to becoming the best mother I knew how to be. I mourn every day for Kiera."

Carpenter has suffered with substance abuse throughout her adult life due to sexual abuse and trauma stemming from her childhood, The Guardian said. She had two sons — one in 2012 and one in 2019 — that she lost custody of because the infants tested positive for drugs, despite them being healthy, according to The Guardian.

She repeatedly sought treatment and was determined to have a different outcome with Kiera, saying she "did not want to risk losing my third child to the system."

In 2020, she prepared a home birth with medical supplies, called a midwife, and prepared a changing table and crib. She remains adamant that her baby was loved and wanted.

Carpenter's case comes amid controversy surrounding women's rights in pregnancy decisions, and conversations around arrests and charges for stillbirths and abortions.