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Wednesday, November 5, 1997 Published at 13:06 GMT


Louise in limbo awaiting verdict on the Internet

Millions are waiting for Judge Zobel to dispense justice over the Internet

The British au pair Louise Woodward faces an agonising wait of anything between a few hours to 60 days before she learns her fate - possibly over the Internet.

In what is thought to be a legal first Judge Hiller Zobel says he will publish his judgement on one or more Websites.

The most likely candidate is the site of an American legal journal. The written judgement will also be made available at the courthouse.

Judge Zobel is considering a 54-page written submission from the teenager's legal team and fresh representations made in court by the defence and prosecution.

Miss Woodward remained in jail on Tuesday afternoon while her lawyers were asking the court to consider three options.

Defence attorney Barry Scheck is calling on Judge Zobel to either reduce her murder charge to manslaughter, overturn her conviction or order a retrial.

If his efforts fail Miss Woodward also has an automatic right of appeal against her murder conviction.

In court Mr Scheck argued her conviction was unjust and that the evidence did not support it. He said autopsy photographs proving Matthew's skull fracture occurred several weeks prior to his death had been withheld from the defence team until late in their case. "Had these photos been made available earlier to the defence, we would have been better prepared to prove our case," he said.

"It is not a question of how skilfully we played our cards, but whether or not we had a fair deck. This photo is powerful evidence that this is an old skull fracture and if it is an old skull fracture, that is going to create by itself reasonable doubt."

The defence side also alleged the prosecution had sought too serious a charge against Miss Woodward then made unfounded accusations in court about the force with which young Matthew Eappen was hit and shaken.

They also said that not enough care was taken to ensure the jury was unbiased by pre-trial publicity and they accused the judge of making mistakes in instructing the jury before they went out to consider their verdict.

[ image: Woodward awaits her fate in jail]
Woodward awaits her fate in jail
The prosecution filed its own document opposing any imposition of a manslaughter verdict, saying Miss Woodward was offered the chance of that during the trial and had turned it down.

However, the district attorney who brought the original charge, Thomas Reilly, suggested that the judge should have over-ruled Miss Woodward's wishes at the time and allowed the jury to consider a manslaughter conviction. It is not known if this had any bearing on the judge's decision.

Prosecution lawyer Martha Coakley said the case showing Matthew had died from "shaken baby syndrome" was clear, and that the defence had failed to prove an alternative explanation.

The case has attracted worldwide media attention and moves to free Miss Woodward have come from both her home village of Elton in Cheshire and from Boston.

Massachussets lawyer John Bonistalli tells BBC Radio 5 how long he thinks the judge will take to decide

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Woodward asks for charge to be changed to manslaughter

What the prosecution said

What the defence said

Internet Links

Town Online - Louise Woodward case

Louise Woodward campaign for justice

Free Louise Woodward

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