Uproar Over Freed Au Pair

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CAMBRIDGE: Shock waves continue to reverberate through the American legal system one day after Judge Hiller Zobel's surprise decision to free a British au pair convicted by a jury of murder. Aghast, prosecution attorneys swore vengeance for baby Matthew Eappen. Others were uneasy at the way Zobel had imposed his will over the jury’s. "We are a system that believes in juries," said TIME National Correspondent and former civil rights lawyer Adam Cohen. "When a judge steps in, you have to ask why."

The judge’s decision does not, however, appear to have upset the jury. Juror Stephen Colwell said he felt "greatly relieved" when the verdict was reduced to manslaughter — a choice he and his 11 colleagues were never given. And most Americans, it seems, agree. According to an ABC News survey — the first post-trial poll — 56 percent felt manslaughter was the correct verdict, with only 35 percent opposed.

On the question of reducing Louise Woodward's sentence to time served, however, the results were less clear-cut. Only 41 percent agreed — the rest swayed, perhaps, by the prosecution's emotional argument that Louise was in jail for virtually the length of Matthew Eappen's life. There was visible disquiet, too, at the scenes of champagne-cork popping in Elton, England. And with Louise reportedly set to reap a possible $100,000 for selling her story to a British magazine when she eventually returns home, the court of public opinion is sure to remain in session.