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Pregnant murder suspect should be released from jail to protect unborn child from 'unlawful and illegal detention,' lawyer claims

Composite screenshot of WTVJ video

A lawyer for a pregnant murder suspect in Florida has filed a petition to have his client released pending trial, claiming that the suspect's unborn child has been subjected to "unlawful and illegal detention."

Natalia Harrell, 24, was six weeks' pregnant when she allegedly shot and killed Gladys Yvette Borcela, 28, while the two were in a crowded Uber last July. According to reports, on July 22, Harrell and another female friend had been socializing with several men they had met at the Clevelander South Beach Hotel and Bar in Miami Beach, Florida, when Borcela was invited to join them. During the course of the evening, Harrell reportedly became annoyed with Borcela's behavior, claiming that she had begun drinking and dancing excessively.

Tensions continued to escalate when the three women and several men piled into an Uber early the following morning. Video from inside the vehicle indicates that the women were shouting and gesturing wildly at one another. At one point, the victim supposedly lunged at Harrell, who was then sitting in the middle seat and facing backward. Harrell then drew a weapon and fired a single round at Borcela, police said.

"You don’t want this," Harrell allegedly told Borcela moments before pulling the trigger. "You don’t want me to go in my purse."

Warning: disturbing content

Borcela later died of a gunshot wound to her abdomen and arm, and Harrell was charged with second-degree murder with a weapon and booked without bond into Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami. Now seven months later, Harrell remains in custody, but her lawyer has filed a petition requesting her immediate release, claiming that her unborn child has not been charged with any crime and is therefore being held in violation of his rights.

Last Thursday, Attorney William M. Norris filed an emergency habeas corpus petition, claiming that Harrell's "UNBORN CHILD has not been charged with any crime by the State" and yet has been placed in an "inherently dangerous environment ... in close proximity to violent criminal offenders."

Norris also noted in the petition that Florida law recognizes an unborn child as a legal person. "An unborn child is a person," stated Norris, who is also representing the unborn baby. "A person has constitutional rights, and one of them is the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law."

Norris' petition added that Harrell and the baby have not received adequate prenatal care, as Harrell has not seen an OB/GYN in several months. The petition also claimed that the baby may have been exposed to physical harm when Harrell was first arrested and then transported in the back of a vehicle without air conditioning. Conditions in that area of the vehicle allegedly reached over 100 degrees, the petition stated.

Miami-Dade Corrections released a statement in response to the petition. "Miami-Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation partners with Jackson Health System to provide healthcare to the inmates in our custody, and we are committed to ensuring all inmates receive professional, timely medical care and all appropriate treatment," the statement said. "We are conducting a full review of the health services offered and received to ensure that all pre-natal care being provided in our custody is appropriate."

Borcela's mother, Yvette Rivera, took to Facebook to express her outrage regarding the habeas corpus petition. "Natalia Harrell Killed My Daughter," Rivera wrote. "And Now Is Trying To Get A Get Out Of Jail Free Card."

Another attorney representing the suspect claimed that she acted in self-defense and filed a motion last month indicating that his client will soon request to have the case against her dismissed on account of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. It is unclear when a judge is expected to rule on the various petitions filed on Harrell's behalf.

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