Au Pair in the Balance

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BOSTON: No matter how you feel about the emotionally charged case, the blunt fact remains -- Louise Woodward is a convicted baby killer. And that’s exactly what her prosecutors will be leaning on as they return to court this morning in a bid to return the British au pair to a Massachusetts jail.

To this end, the D.A.’s office has dredged up the most gruesome litany of legal precedent -- 10 previous “baby murder” cases, none of which were commuted to involuntary manslaugher. None of the defendants had their sentences reduced to time served, as Judge Hiller Zobel did for Woodward last November. Zobel’s decision should be overturned “due to the many baby murder convictions which were premised on medical facts strikingly similar to this case,” prosecutors say.

Whether this rather simplistic legal argument will succeed is another matter. The Massachusetts judiciary system has not been too kind to prosecutors in their appeal thus far. The Commonwealth’s seven Supreme Court justices will hear a mere half hour of arguments from each side. They then have 130 days to hand down their verdict; it is expected to arrive substantially quicker than that. If the appeal is struck down, Woodward plans to return to England -- all this legal wrangling has nearly depleted her $400,000 defense fund. Not surprisingly, she can’t face the thought of another trial to clear her name.