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Thursday, August 5, 1999 Published at 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK

World: Americas

Nanny sentencing deferred

Manjit Kaur Basuta: A tense wait for sentence

A British childminder who was convicted of shaking a baby to death has had her sentencing postponed by a judge in San Diego.

The BBC's Daniela Relph reports that Basuta maintains her innocence
Indian-born Manjit Kaur Basuta, 44, faces possible sentences ranging from probation to between 25 years and life in jail after being found guilty of killing 13-month-old Oliver Smith.

Judge William Kennedy deferred sentencing to consider further the appropriate penalty.

He said he was concerned that a life sentence might be cruel, but probation could be too lenient.

He instructed attorneys to research sentencing for similar cases under similar law in other states, and sentencing in cases with equally serious charges in California.

He told the court: "We are dealing with a human being's life."

A new court date has been set for 1 October.

Family anguish

Basuta's brother Amarjit Singh said he was worried about the impact the delay would have on his sister.

He said: "I shudder to think how she must be feeling.

"She has already had to endure this ridiculous wait for a sentence for something she did not do, and now she has got to go back into solitary confinement and wait until 1 October for sentence to be finally passed."

The BBC's Peter Bowes reports from court
During the trial jurors heard that Mrs Basuta, who ran a day care centre, had lost her temper with Oliver after he refused to stop watching television in order to have his nappy changed.

The prosecution said that she slammed him to the ground, and he died the following day of massive head injuries.

[ image: Oliver Smith: Died of massive head injuries]
Oliver Smith: Died of massive head injuries
Mrs Basuta, who has always maintained her innocence, was left distraught by the guilty verdict, which was announced in June.

Her lawyers say the trial judge refused to allow important evidence to be heard.

They claim that the child had a previous head injury, but say they were not allowed to cross-examine experts in court on how that might have led to his death.

Prayers said by family

Amarjit Singh: "She is a loving person with three grown-up children. There is no evidence she lost her temper"
Mrs Basuta says Oliver had been pushed over on a brick patio whilst playing with other children, as she was changing the nappy on another child.

She and her husband, along with their three children, have lived in California for 10 years since she left her job as a nurse in Berkshire.

Some of Mrs Basuta's family had flown to San Diego from the UK to hear the sentence delivered, while others gathered at a temple in Slough to say prayers for her.

They wanted to see Mrs Basuta getting the same sort of support that the British au pair Louise Woodward received when she was facing a life sentence in an American prison for shaking a child to death.

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