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Monday, November 10, 1997 Published at 18:56 GMT



Special Report

Timetable of Woodward case
image: [ Seven judges will decide Louise Woodward's fate ]
Seven judges will decide Louise Woodward's fate

July 1996: Louise Woodward, 18, finds a placement as an au pair in the United States.

November, 1996: She starts work for Sunil and Deborah Eappen in Boston after leaving her first placement because she was unhappy with an 11pm "curfew".


[ image: The Eappens in court]
The Eappens in court
January 30, 1997: The Eappens are concerned at Woodward's late nights out and write a list of what is expected of her, with the primary goal being "the safety and well-being of our kids".

February 4: Miss Woodward calls an ambulance to the Eappens' home after Matthew Eappen stops breathing. He is put on a life support machine at Boston Children's Hospital.

February 5: Miss Woodward is arrested. She pleads not guilty in court to battery of a child. Police say she admits shaking Matthew and throwing him on a pile of towels. She is sent to Framingham women's prison.

February 9: Matthew is "critical" in hospital. Doctors say he has brain injuries and a four-week-old arm fracture.

February 10: Matthew dies of a brain haemorrhage after his life support machine is switched off. Prosecutors say they will seek a murder indictment.


[ image:  ]
February 13: Miss Woodward arrives at court and pleads not guilty to murder. Judge Bletzer refuses bail. Matthew's funeral service is held in a packed St Lawrence Roman Catholic Church, Boston.

March 5: A grand jury decides Miss Woodward must face a charge of first degree murder. Her father Gary, at home in Elton, Cheshire, says he and her mother Sue "are totally shocked".

April 7: A new application for bail is rejected.

October 4: Friends of Miss Woodward in Elton say prayers in church as she prepares to face trial.

October 7: The trial starts. The prosecution claims that Miss Woodward killed nine-month-old Matthew in a "frustrated, unhappy and resentful rage".

October 8: Brain surgeon Joseph Medsen concedes that the head injuries could have been received days or weeks before Matthew was taken to hospital.

October 9: Pathologist Gerard Feigin, who carried out autopsy, says he found no evidence that Matthew had been shaken.

October 14: Detective Sergeant William Byrne says Miss Woodward told him she "may have been a little rough with (Matthew)" after he had been "cranky, crying and fussy".

October 23: Miss Woodward cries as she describes her frantic attempts to revive Matthew. She denies shaking him violently, hitting him or hurting him.

October 26: The defence chooses an all-or-nothing verdict. It does not allow the jury to consider charges less serious than murder.


[ image:  ]
October 28: The prosecution calls Miss Woodward "a liar and aspiring actress".

The jury retires.

October 30: The jury finds Miss Woodward guilty of second degree murder, which means a mandatory life sentence with no parole for at least 15 years. She collapses in tears. Her friends and supporters, watching television in a pub in Elton, receive the verdict with howls and screams.


[ image:  ]
October 31: Judge Hiller Zobel sentences Miss Woodward to life. Protesters demonstrate outside the court. Miss Woodward's mother says: "They've made a horrendous mistake and they need to put it right." Supporters launch appeal for funds.

November 1: Miss Woodward asks her parents in the prison visiting room: "Please don't let me spend the rest of my life in here for something I didn't do."

November 2: It emerges that the jury was split when it retired, but those favouring an acquittal were persuaded to accept a conviction. None of the jury "thought she tried to murder him", says one member.

November 4: The judge hears a plea from the defence for the murder verdict to be overturned or for the charge to be reduced to manslaughter. He says he will post his decision on the Internet.

November 10: The judge reduces the sentence to manslaughter.

November 25: Prosecutors appeal against the judge's decision to reduce her conviction to one of involuntary manslaughter.

Novermber 27: Miss Woodward issues a statement through her lawyers denying she and her family have accepted any offers to sell the rights to her story to the media.


[ image: Louise at the appeal hearing]
Louise at the appeal hearing
December 3: In a hearing lasting a matter of minutes, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Abrams rejects a prosecution bid to have Louise Woodward returned to prison immediately. The Justice moved to speed up the appeals process and ruled that the prosecution and defence appeals could be presented to the entire seven-member Supreme Judicial Court in March, bypassing the lower Appeals Court.

December 13:Judge Hiller Zobel refuses Miss Woodward permission to leave Massachusetts for a holiday in California.

December 29: Miss Woodward's appeal will be heard on Friday, 6 March.

January 20: EF Au Pair, the American agency which employed British teenager Louise Woodward stops paying for her appeal. Instead, some of the estimated £200,000 raised by her supporters is to be used to fund the appeal.

March 6: Supreme Court appeal hearing:

The start of the hearing is delayed when explosions ripped through electrical equipment in the basement, injuring five people. Miss Woodward had not entered the court.

March 9
The hearing starts in earnest.

Andrew Good, head of the appeal team, tells seven Massachusetts appeal judges that the defence was denied vital medical evidence concerning Mathew Eappen's skull fracture.


[ image:  ]
Mr Good tells the court that the defence had conclusive evidence that the baby had not been murdered. Defence medical witnesses would have demonstrated their evidence in court if they had been allowed to see the skull fracture, said Mr Good.

Opening the appeal case for the prosecution, assistant district attorney Sabita Singh says the defence had been given ample time to ask for the skull evidence.

She goes on to say that the defence case being put to the seven judges was irrelevant because the jury had been given all possible facts. "There was nothing wrong with this trial. It was an excellently tried case, there is no reason to touch what happened in this trial."


[ image: Asst. District Attorney Singh]
Asst. District Attorney Singh
Ms Singh says the prosecution will seek a new trial if the appeal judges want to acquit Miss Woodward. She also criticises the trial judge, Hiller Zobel, for acting wrongly when he reduced the jury's verdict from murder to manslaughter.

"Whatever the judge did should not be upheld," she said.

Louise Woodward must now wait for the seven judges to decide her fate. They have up to 130 days to deliver their verdict.

They can allow her to go free, but let the manslaughter verdict stand, quash the conviction totally or re-instate the murder verdict and send her back to jail.
 





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