The Mississippi 16th Circuit District Attorney’s Office has dropped initial second-degree murder charges against a woman accused of birthing her baby in a toilet and abandoning it.
District Attorney Scott Colom said his office plans to re-present the case to the grand jury in light of new information that is a part of an ongoing investigation.
Lattice Fisher, 33, was arrested after an Oktibbeha County grand jury indicted her for second-degree murder in January 2018. According to court files, Charles Fisher — Latice Fisher’s husband — called 911 on April 28, 2017, after finding Fisher on the toilet in their home. An emergency medical technician arrived to find the infant still in the toilet, “covered in feces and blood,” with the umbilical cord still attached to Fisher.
Fisher, a former Starkville Police Department radio operator, was booked in the Oktibbeha County Jail on $100,000 bond after her arrest. Colom confirmed on Wednesday that she has been out of jail after making bond.
Colom filed a motion for nolle prosequi to dismiss the matter without prejudice on Wednesday. In a press release, Colom confirmed his office plans to bring the case back before the grand jury.
Colom told The Dispatch the grand jury, if it chooses to re-indict Fisher, could do so under the same charge or a different one. He said grand juries are typically presented several charges when a case is brought for consideration.
According to the motion, the Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy on the baby and found that it was alive at the time of birth. The office reached the conclusion by using a “float test,” where lung tissue is placed in water and observed to see if it floats or sinks.
According to the motion, airless lung tissue — which is consistent with a child that did not breathe — sinks, while floating lung tissue is an indication that the child took at least one breath.
However, the motion further notes that there are instances that can create false positives with the float test. One example cited is the “bellows effect,” which is described as the child’s lungs compressing while it passes through the birth canal and expanding after exiting, drawing air into the lungs in the process.
“Furthermore, according to medicolegal/forensic literature, the possibility of bacterial growth may exist, despite proper refrigeration and lack of noted decomposition, which could potentially produce a false positive,” the motion states. “These are a few examples of new information the State was not aware of prior to the indictment.”
In the motion, Colom says the state has an obligation — especially for a case of such magnitude — to make sure grand jurors have all the needed information to make an informed decision. Colom says that was not the case with the initial indictment.
“The bottom line is the indicting Oktibbeha County Grand Jury did not have access to complete information about the medical evidence in this case,” the motion says. “Without this information, the State is concerned the indicting Grand Jury was not given relevant information when making its decision.”
It may be some time before Fisher’s case is brought before another grand jury. Oktibbeha County’s grand juries typically convene in January and June. Colom said his office is continuing an investigation and will likely not have the case ready for the next grand jury.
“I think now that we’ve gotten some new information on it, I want to get as much info as I can on the float test and make sure I exhaust everything,” he said.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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