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MADISON - The Department of Justice will seek Supreme Court review of a Wisconsin court of appeals decision that reversed the 1996 first-degree reckless homicide conviction of Audrey Edmunds and ordered a new trial. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said that the Department of Justice will file a petition for review with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, asking the Court to reverse the court of appeals' decision, thereby reinstating her conviction. Edmunds, a former Waunakee day care worker, was convicted after an eight-day trial by a Dane County jury of killing seven-month-old Natalie Beard.
"The court of appeals decision that vacates Edmunds' conviction and orders a new trial applies a novel legal analysis that may tend to upset the finality of all convictions where scientific evidence was properly adduced at trial and where a defendant had the opportunity to fairly and fully present his or her case," said Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office will represent the state before the Supreme Court. "We will ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to carefully consider the merits of that legal analysis."
In 1997, Edmunds challenged her conviction on the ground that there had developed a debate among medical science experts concerning both the validity of a "Shaken Baby Syndrome" diagnosis and the length of time that might pass between the infliction of injury and the onset of symptoms. Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel R. Moeser, who had presided over the trial, denied a new trial in 1998 on the ground that the theory then being offered was inconsistent with the theory of defense Edmunds' lawyers had put on at trial. In 1999, the conviction was affirmed by the Wisconsin court of appeals. Edmunds then sought relief from the federal courts, which was denied.
In 2006, Edmunds brought another challenge to her conviction, seeking a new trial based upon new evidence in the form of additional experts who could testify about the medical science debate concerning Shaken Baby Syndrome and the interval between the infliction of injury and the onset of symptoms. Judge Moeser held four full days of evidentiary hearings at which medical experts for both Edmunds and the state testified. He also heard an additional day of oral argument.
After considering all of the arguments and testimony adduced at the multiple day hearing, Judge Moeser denied Edmunds' motion for a new trial. On January 31, 2008, the Court of Appeals, District IV, reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial for Edmunds. The court of appeals concluded that Edmunds' attorneys proved there was a reasonable probability of an acquittal if all of these experts would testify at a new trial before a different jury.
"Over ten years after a jury returned a guilty verdict against Ms. Edmunds, Judge Moeser held an extensive evidentiary hearing to determine whether a new trial was warranted," Van Hollen said. "Judge Moeser concluded that the prosecution's case was just as strong if not stronger now than it was at the original trial. The court of appeals disagreed. After discussing this matter with Assistant Attorneys General in my office and District Attorney Blanchard, I believe this is a matter worth asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to consider."
The state's petition will be filed in the Supreme Court by the March 3, 2008, due date. Assistant Attorney General Daniel O'Brien will represent the state.