When a Baby's Accidental Drug Death Leads to a $3 Million Bail Order, It's Time to Ask Questions

Is a mom who passed drugs along to her infant via breastfeeding a real community threat?


Reason cover
Reason Magazine

Samantha Whitney Jones, a 30-year-old woman in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is facing criminal homicide charges over the apparently accidental drug-related death of her 11-week-old baby boy.

The charge itself may give you pause. Jones is addicted to opioids and is on methadone as treatment. Studies show that very little methadone is transferred from mother to baby via breastfeeding. Women on methadone are encouraged by experts to breastfeed if possible.

According to police accounts, in the wee hours of April 2, Jones breastfed her boy. Later that morning she fed him some formula. Then she put the boy in a basinet and fell asleep. When she woke up an hour later, the baby was pale and not breathing. Jones and her mother tried to revive the baby and called 911, but the baby didn't make it.

A toxicology report as part of the baby's autopsy found methadone, amphetamines, and methamphetamine in his bloodstream. And so they've charged Jones with homicide for the baby's death on the belief that she transmitted the drugs into the baby's system via breastfeeding (no drugs were found in the formula).

Nobody seems to be arguing that Jones intentionally killed the boy. It all seems like a horrible tragedy, though, obviously there's still a lot of information that hasn't yet come out. When it came time to determine Jones' bail, the judge set it at $3 million, an extremely high amount. Last week a judge knocked it down to $500,000. Records show that Jones' mother was able to pay the 10 percent deposit necessary today ($50,000) to cover it.

Jones isn't breastfeeding any other babies, and the family didn't try to conceal what happened. They tried to save the baby. This seems like a situation where the judge determined bail based on the severity of the crime, not on the basis of any risk Jones poses to the community. The high amount prompted Philadelphia Inquirer opinion writer Abraham Gutman to ask some questions, and he eventually spoke with Philadelphia defense attorney Marni Snyder. Snyder explained that sometimes judges used the severity of the charges themselves as evidence of the potential flight risk, thus demanding the high bail amounts.

Gutman is concerned about the consequences:

"If the crime is really upsetting, all of a sudden they are considered a danger to the community, without looking whether or not their crime is likely to be repeated on the street," Snyder explains. According to the criminal complaint, the physician that performed R.J.'s autopsy "advised [that] R.J. ingested the combination of fatal drugs through breast milk." In addition to the high bail, the judge imposed a condition that Jones will not come in contact with anyone under the age of 18. What is the judge scared of, that Jones will breast-feed teenagers after using drugs? It seems improbable, if not impossible, that Jones would be able to repeat the alleged crime.

Why the high bail then? Snyder says that often the official setting the bail – which could be a judge, magistrate, or commissioner depending on the court — "uses their gut reaction to the crime to set a high bail to make a statement about how upsetting the offense is, and that is not right."

It happens a lot, and the end result is that people who cannot afford bail end up stuck in jail prior to their trials not because they're dangers to the community, but because a the pile of disproportionate charges prosecutors dump on them create a threat of a massive jail sentence that prompts judges to declare a possible flight risk.

Then, when stuck in jail because they cannot afford to cover bail, defendants are more likely to accept plea deals or face harsher criminal penalties because they feel as though they have no other choice, and it's much harder to fight charges from the inside of a jail cell. These outcomes due to extremely high bail amounts have helped drive a movement to reform the bail system so that money is not the primary determinant of who gets to be free to fight their case and who ends up stuck behind bars waiting for justice. It's the focus of Reason's cover story for the August/September issue. Read it here.

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  1. “”not on the basis of any risk Jones poses for the community””

    Flight risk / failing to show up for court are other things considered for bail. I do agree, 3 Mil is pretty heavy unless you have a private jet.

    1. 3 mil is way high… but it was reduced and she’s currently out on bail.
      Not sure what the story is here without knowing the details of how that bail got reduced, and if it’s a common practice.
      Withholding outrage for the time being.

      (Also, it’s like 10k for possession of weed. How is causing someone’s death only 5x worse than possession?)

  2. Man, I wasted my Jeselnik baby joke in the other thread. Hold on, there’s gotta be another one….

    “I thought I was a father once. But then they did a blood test on the baby, and the baby died.”

    “I think my friends wife has been banging a black guy. Because they just had a baby. And the baby had a hole in it.”

    “I’m writing a book. It’s called The Soft Spot… and Other Ways to Stop a Crying Baby.”

    Man, I guess Anthony really hates babies.

  3. The doc who advised her to breastfeed isn’t the one responsible for the death?

    1. Even if his words were toxic, I doubt they were transmitted through the breastmilk.

    2. Mothers on methadone maintenance can breastfeed as not much enters the breast milk. So the doctor gave her correct advice.

      The article says that they also found amphetamine and methamphetamine in the baby which is another matter. Those readily transfer to breast milk.

      1. And…?

        1. So the doc is not responsible. He gave her the correct advice knowing she was on methadone maintenance. Unless she told him she was also using meth which I doubt. It looks like that is what killed her baby.

      2. ^^ This. This mother knowingly violated a methadone contract, ingested these other drugs that are transmitted in breastmilk. She killed her baby. It was not just a “Tragic Accident.”

        1. Maybe she should roll with the idea that it wasn’t a tragic accident. Call it a post-natal abortion.

          1. Good one.

      3. And yet they found methadone in the baby.

        And, I seriously doubt this is the first woman to break that contract, so I would question the argument that breast feeding is safe in these mothers.

    3. Well probably prescribed methadone, but I doubt if he prescribed crystal meth which was also in the toxicology report. You should probably re-read the article.

  4. Is a mom who passed drugs along to her infant via breastfeeding a real community threat?

    Depends: how many more people is she planning to breastfeed?

    1. How big is the line?

      Her milkshakes are bringing all addicts to the yard.

      1. Missouri called, they’ve got a new idea for a lethal drug cocktail for their death penalty cases.

    2. Is she on the LAPD?

  5. sometime its not the mom who gives the kid the bad drugs but CPS still goes after the mom.
    look up medical kidnap, texas mom who fights to regain custody after vaccination injury.

    thats the real crime in this country

    1. Bullshit flag

  6. Jones is addicted to opioids and is on methadone as treatment. … A toxicology report as part of the baby’s autopsy found methadone, amphetamines, and methamphetamine in his bloodstream.

    Emphases added. I suspect that’s Jones’s problem.

    1. And…?

      1. She murdered an 11 week old infant.

        1. No. Her stupidity killed an 11 week old infant. Murder strongly implies that the death was deliberate.

          See, this is just a little of the fallout of the long, LONG War On Drugs; the anti-drug forces have been caught in so many lies about illegal drug that idiots in the drug-using subculture no longer pay much attention to anything they say. Which causes the Anti-Drug Crusaders to double down on their scare stories, and so on, and on. Most illegal drugs are nowhere near as harmless as drug-culture devotees think they are. Most illegal drugs are nowhere near as comic-book dangerous as the Crusaders are prone to claim they are. The Crusaders are probably closer to the truth, but the whole issue is a blizzard of bullshit from all sides.

          I’ve watched this idiocy, on and off, for decades. And the more I watch it the more convinced I become that the costs of the War On Drugs greatly outweigh any benefit it produces.

          1. I don’t advocate a war on drugs. I believe in NAP, but this woman in her right to pursue liberty ingested a lethal combination of drugs that deprives this 11 week old any chance of pursuing a life of liberty or anything else.

          2. It’s still a homicide. If you know your truck has a bomb in it and you’ve been meaning to get it fixed but haven’t and then I climb in and drive off and 5 seconds later it blows up and kills me, then you didn’t really murder me, however you are still guilty of homicide. I am guilty of not asking whether there is an explosive in the truck and will have heck to answer for it. I haven’t really don’t anything impressive enough to land me in hell.

            1. Not if you steal the truck. You commit crime at your own risk as I have no legal obligation to keep my property safe for those who would steal it.

          3. Not sure about the particulars of that State but that sort of willful indifference can earn you a step up from reckless homicide,

  7. Studies show that very little methadone is transferred from mother to baby via breastfeeding. Women on methadone are encouraged by experts to breastfeed if possible.

    Someone needs to transfer this late breaking info to the fucking breast-feeding nazi kale-eating organic anti-smoking crackpots.

    1. Maybe, but in this case what appears to have happened is that the mother, a likely mouth-breathing fool, heard that information about Methadone and assumed it also applied to the OTHER drugs she was taking.

      So I’m not sure where your comment applies in this case.

      Not that the ‘All Natural’ nitwits don’t deserve a brisk kick in the fork on general principles, for being buttinskies.

      1. Not to keep on about this but, my experience working with addicts suggests otherwise. Most have a Wikipedia knowledge of drugs and have at times educated us medical types.

  8. This is just what we need. Let’s lock up some simple minded peasant woman with a drug problem as though she actually intended to poison her child. Or, for that matter as though she intended to do anything at all beyond stopping whatever pain she was feeling.

    1. She intended to take those drugs & that child is the one not feeling any pain.

    2. But she did poison her child

  9. Somebody died, someone MUST be punished!!!

    “Beware of those with a strong urge to punish” . . . !!!


    Ultimately from Freddy Nietzsche …

    1. “Somebody died, someone MUST be punished!!!”

      Didn’t apply in Benghazi – – – – – – – –

      1. No, they arrested the video guy…

  10. If there was enough to kill a baby then it was probably not from the breast milk. If she was doing so much drugs, it’s likely that she didn’t want to have the baby, thereby providing M.O. Also her husband may have spiked the formula. So yes I suspect murder. Still, this is a problem of addiction ‘treatment’, which basically encourages young people to make bad decisions (like having a baby) while they are in the grips of a ‘disease’.

    1. That isn’t what the autopsy says. Autopsies are not infallible, but I’d like to see some conflicting information before I jump on the ‘she didn’t want the baby’ bandwagon.

    2. In case you don’t know that baby is probably about 1/10th the size of it’s mother at best, isn’t an addict, and kids are notoriously wimpy when it comes to toxins so it really doesn’t take much to kill it’s little heart. She needs to do time for this, it’s clearly a case of negligent homicide.

    3. “Also her husband may have spiked the formula”

      Sometimes you just have to read the article – ” (no drugs were found in the formula).”

      So leave the reflex man-hate out of it.

      1. No drugs were found in the formula that was tested.

        Formula tends to be prepared one meal at a time.

        From the timeline, it seems that the baby was exposed the night before.

        That bottle would have been emptied and washed.

    4. It is very plausible. Amphetamine and meth pass readily into breast milk. And they can persist for up to two days.

      Chronic adult users develop tolerance so they can take a dose that would be lethal to a new user. She was likely a chronic user.

      Animal experiments have shown that the LD50 lethal dose for methamphetamine (which is weight adjusted) is much lower in young animals than adults.

      So this is an infant. Would not take much and there is a combination involved with those two and the small amount of methadone already on board.

      1. There’s also a major issue in general with children being born into opiod withdrawal across the country. Some urban hospitals having birth rates near 40% with opiods present in their system. 3 million bail isn’t really a solution, but opiods in pregnancy is definitely an increasing side effect of the opiod issues were facing

    5. not to stereotype, but she’s probably not married…I’d be surprised if the father even lived with them

  11. If we can keep our eye on the ball.

    This is a serious charge. But she hasn’t been convicted. Until and unless she is, how do we maintain her presumption of innocence?

    1. Drugs. Guilty even if found not guilty.

    2. It’s unfortunate for her case that so much of the alleged information is in the public domain as reported by Reason. It’s very probable that the subsequent events were not intentional. All that can be hoped for is justice for both.

      1. If justice is the legal system I leave that up to them.

        As for the public domain it is good that it showed up.

        Perhaps there will be another mother in the same situation who read about this.

        Having relapsed into her addiction she might get up at 3am and get the bottle of formula instead of the choice this mom made. One more life saved.

        Cmon she did speed and crystal meth and breastfed her baby. She had been bottle formula feeding for two days. That cry in the middle of the night. That life is gone. Nobody knows as well as she does how much up a F up that is.

        What is justice here. Yup she needs to go to prison.

        This is not an “accident”.

  12. Remember, people these are hypersensitized to abusing children, especially causing them to die.

    Unless abortion is involved, which is a sacrament.

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  14. “Is a mom who passed drugs along to her infant via breastfeeding a real community threat?”

    just a threat to her own offspring and who cares about them?

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