5-3 rul­ing tosses con­vic­tion, death sen­tence

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - clin­dell@states­man.com Hen­der­son

By Chuck Lin­dell

Cathy Lynn Hen­der­son, once just two days from ex­e­cu­tion for the 1994 death of an in­fant she was baby-sit­ting in her Pflugerville-area home, was granted a new trial Wed­nes­day by a sharply di­vided Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals.

The 5-3 rul­ing tossed out Hen­der­son’s cap­i­tal mur­der con­vic­tion and death sen­tence, re­turn­ing the case to Travis County, where pros- ecu­tors will de­ter­mine what charge she will face — and whether to seek the death penalty or life in prison if it’s cap­i­tal mur­der — in a re­trial likely to be­gin some­time next year.

Writ­ing in sup­port of a new trial, ap­peals court Judge Cathy Cochran said sci­en­ti­flc ad­vances in the fleld of pe­di­atric head in­juries have raised doubts about tes­ti­mony from pros­e­cu­tion ex­perts who said 3-month-old Bran­don Baugh’s in­juries could only be ex­plained by Hen­der­son in­ten- tion­ally slam­ming him into the con­crete floor of her home.

“Chang­ing sci­ence has cast doubt on the ac­cu­racy of the orig­i­nal jury ver­dict” and de­prived Hen­der­son of “a fun­da­men­tally fair trial based upon re­li­able sci­en­ti­flc ev­i­dence,” Cochran wrote. “This ... is a case that should be re­tried to en­sure the ac­cu­racy of our ver­dicts and the in­tegrity of our sys­tem.”

In a bluntly worded dis­sent,

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