Criminal Justice

Baby Sitter Wins New Trial in Infant's Death After Experts Cite Advances in Science of Head Injury

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New advances in the field of pediatric head injuries are being cited in a new trial grant for a Texas baby sitter who came close to execution for the 1994 death of a child in her care.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a new trial for Cathy Lynn Henderson on Wednesday, the Austin American-Statesman and the Associated Press report.

The appeals court had blocked Henderson’s execution in June 2007 and ordered a new hearing to consider the expert evidence. The trial judge recommended a new trial after hearing from six expert witnesses who relied on new studies indicating the child’s fatal injuries could have been caused by an accidental fall. Five prosecution experts testified it was unlikely the child died accidentally.

Henderson had claimed 3-month-old Brandon Baugh died when she accidentally dropped him, while prosecutors had alleged Henderson intentionally slammed the boy into the floor. Henderson said she panicked and buried the boy’s body in a field before she fled to Missouri.

The court vote to grant the new trial was 5-3. Three concurring opinions signed by five judges supported the new trial, while two dissenting opinions signed by three judges disagreed, the American-Statesman said. Judge Michael Keasler was among the dissenters.

“It is a travesty to grant this child killer relief … while her tiny, defenseless victim lies dead and reburied,” Keasler wrote.

Related article:

ABA Journal: “Unsettling Science: Experts Are Still Debating Whether Shaken Baby Syndrome Exists”

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