Pregnant Detroit activist imprisoned after defending herself gets felony conviction reversed

Siwatu-Salama Ra was forced to give birth in prison while shackled.

(Activist Siwatu-Salama Ra courtesy of East Michigan Environmental Action Council/Facebook)

A Detroit activist forced to give birth in jail last year has finally had her gun charge convictions reversed, after her case drew public scrutiny and outrage.

According to the Metro Times, in 2017, Siwatu-Salama Ra used an unloaded firearm to defend herself and her children during a heated altercation with Chanell Harvey, the mother of a schoolmate of Ra’s niece. The other woman had attempted to use her vehicle as a “battering ram” but drove off when she saw the weapon and told Detroit Police Ra was the aggressor.

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The 26-year-old, who was pregnant at the time, was later charged with assault and a felony firearm conviction, a crime which carries a mandatory minimum two-year sentence. Despite having no previous criminal record, pleas to delay her sentencing until after she gave birth fell on deaf years and as a result her son was born while she was incarcerated.

Many took issue with how the case was initially handled, particularly with the fact that Wayne County Judge Thomas Hathaway would not allow Ra’s legal team to present a full self-defense claim to the jury or cross-examine the driver in the incident.

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However, Tuesday, the young mother and her supporters finally got the news they’d been waiting on, when all of her felonious assault and firearm convictions were reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeal.

“The Michigan Court of Appeals again showed itself to be the thoughtful, deliberative judiciary that citizens can rely upon to carry out justice,” said Attorney Wade Fink. “This is a huge victory for justice. Siwatu acted in self-defense and we hope the case is completely dismissed. But if this case is brought again, we intend to prove it – this time in a fair trial where Siwatu is permitted to present a defense.”