Sunday, 5 June 2011

SIDS: Scotland: Jennifer Liehne is cleared of killing baby daughter 30 years ago

 27 May 2011
A WOMAN wept as appeal judges overturned her conviction for smothering to death her infant daughter almost 30 years ago.
Jennifer Liehne, 47, served more than four years in prison for suffocating the baby, Jacqueline, but always insisted she had not killed her.
The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh yesterday ruled that the judge at Ms Liehne's trial had failed to give the jury adequate directions on how to approach the wealth of medical evidence in the case.
Ms Liehne was too upset to comment, but her solicitor, John Pryde, said: "She is just overwhelmed and relieved the matter is finished. She has maintained her innocence from day one, and she is delighted the matter is over in her favour.
"I think it has destroyed her life. She has a big task now to try to rebuild her life."
The Crown could have asked for permission to take Ms Liehne to trial a second time, but the advocate-depute, Dorothy Bain QC, said it had been decided that, given the time spent in custody, it would not be in the public interest to seek a retrial.
A five-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2006 heard that, from the age of five months, Jacqueline had been admitted several times to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children after her mother claimed the baby had stopped breathing and turned blue.
Each time, Jacqueline was found to be fine. She had nothing more wrong with her than the sort of common ailments suffered by children. It was suspected that Ms Liehne, still in her teens and with another, older girl, might have been using a ploy to either gain attention or some respite from looking after the children.
The girl had been discharged from hospital on the morning of 19 December 1982, but that night a doctor was called twice to the family home in Hyvot Avenue, Edinburgh. He deemed it unnecessary for a return to hospital.
The next day, Jacqueline died. Pathologists decided she had been a victim of sudden infant death syndrome. Ms Liehne later had another daughter, and social work intervention continued.
When she became pregnant again in 2001, concerned social workers arranged for the baby to be taken into care.
It was decided that Jacqueline's death should be reviewed and new techniques were applied to samples that had been preserved since 1982. Those revealed damage to the lungs which, the prosecution alleged, was consistent with "imposed upper airway obstruction".
The jury convicted Ms Liehne of the culpable homicide of Jacqueline by restricting her breathing by means unknown.
She was jailed for ten years, later reduced to seven on appeal.

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