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Monday, November 3, 1997 Published at 11:17 GMT


Attorney raises hopes of nanny's release

DA Thomas Reilly brought the case against the English au pair

The Boston District Attorney has said that the jury which convicted Louise Woodward of murder should have been given the option of returning a manslaughter verdict.

Thomas Reilly would not comment on whether he would appeal if the verdict was reduced to manslaughter by the judge at a hearing on Tuesday. However, he has said the facts of the case did justify a finding of second degree murder.

Mr Reilly told the BBC he did not think it was wrong for the jury to have brought in a verdict of second degree murder. He would not have taken the decision to prosecute the British teenager for murder if he did not think that charge had been justified.

But he said the jury should have been given the option of returning a verdict of manslaughter despite a decision by Louise Woodward and her lawyers to opt for a choice between murder or an acquittal.

And according to at least one member of the jury, that is exactly what they felt too. Jodie Garber told the BBC on Saturday that, with a manslaughter verdict ruled out, they had felt compelled to convict her of murder.

[ image: Message to reporters at the home of trial juror Jodie Garber on Sunday]
Message to reporters at the home of trial juror Jodie Garber on Sunday

She said they thought Louise Woodward was responsible for the injuries that killed eight-month-old Matthew Eappen, but that she had not intended to kill him.

The jury believed any reasonable person would have known that shaking a baby violently could kill him. They felt that was sufficient for a verdict of second degree murder.

Another juror is quoted in the Boston Sunday Globe as saying that if manslaughter had been an option they would have been back within a few hours.

The unnamed juror says: "I know I would have voted for manslaughter because I believe the detective and I believe that Louise lost her temper, threw the baby down, got scared and then lied about what really happened."

Meanwhile, ABC TV quotes a jury member as saying: "There's no way we could face the Eappens and say 'we think she's guilty but we've got to let her go'. We were in a no-win situation."

Although the District Attorney has not changed his position during the trial, the BBC's Legal Affairs Correspondent Joshua Rozenberg says his remarks must increase the chances of a decision favourable to Louise Woodward when the case resumes.

In Britain, Louise Woodward's MP Andrew Miller says he will wait until the judge reconsiders the case before deciding whether to ask the British Government to intervene.

"If the matter does go to appeal I will be trying to encourage my colleagues to put gentle diplomatic pressure on the US system to hear the case quickly. I believe there's such a fundamental miscarriage here that the quicker the matter is resolved the better for all concerned."

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