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1997: British au pair freed after appeal
British au pair Louise Woodward has been freed from jail in the United States after her conviction for murdering a baby was reduced to manslaughter.

The appeal judge at the court, Hillar Zobel, reduced her life sentence to 279 days in jail - which she had already served awaiting trial.

Judge Zobel said he had decided to reduce Woodward's conviction because he believed her actions were characterised not by malice but by confusion, inexperience and frustration.

Ten days ago a jury in the same court in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that Woodward, 19, had murdered eight-month-old Matthew Eappen.

The jury reached its verdict in spite of evidence the baby may have been injured when he was not in Woodward's care.

We believe, as we always have believed, in Louise's total innocence
Woodward campaign spokeswoman
The case has aroused strong feelings on both sides of the Atlantic and provoked sharp criticism of the American justice system.

Campaigners fighting for Louise Woodward's freedom had been calling for her conviction to be quashed and were dismayed by the decision to reduce her conviction to manslaughter.

A campaign spokeswoman said: "We believe, as we always have believed, in Louise's total innocence. This campaign will continue until Louise comes home."

Woodward has been ordered to remain in the US while the prosecution appeals against the reduction in her conviction.

Philip Johnson, president of EF Au Pair, the agency which employed Woodward, said his company would continue to support Louise until her name was cleared.

"We appreciate Judge Zobel's willingness to reconsider the jury's verdict," Mr Johnson said.

"However, we see his decision to reduce the charge against Louise to involuntary manslaughter as the first step in the process leading to her total exoneration."

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Watch/Listen
Louise Woodward in court
The judge said Woodward was not motivated by malice

Supporters of Louise request full acquittal


In Context
The prosecution failed to get Louise Woodward's murder conviction reinstated.

She was later unsuccessful in getting her manslaughter conviction quashed and was sued for damages by Matthew Eappen's parents.

The case was later settled out of court in return for an agreement she would not profit financially from the case, for example, by selling her story.

After returning home Louise Woodward enrolled at London's South Bank University to study law.

Her parents were later charged with stealing from a trust set up in their daughter's name.

They were cleared in July 2000 when a judge ruled there was no case to answer.

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