Bridget Lee Baby Murder Charge Dismissed: Based on Botched Autopsy
A botched autopsy nearly had catastrophic results for Bridget Lee of Alabama, who had been charged in 2006 with murder for suffocating her baby right after it was born. The AP reports that the murder charge against her was dismissed after subsequent autopsies determined that the baby was actually stillborn, and not suffocated.
Suspicions against Bridget Lee were high early on because she decided to hide the stillborn baby in an SUV. But the AP described that she had a different reason for doing so, however, "The small-town mother of two committed adultery, became pregnant and panicked". Further:
"Lee made a huge mistake. Rather than seeking medical attention, she placed the baby's body in a plastic container in the back of her Chevrolet Tahoe and went on with her life. A couple who had been lined up to adopt the child called police after she told them he was stillborn.
Confronted by authorities a few days later, Lee told them what happened. Even today, she can't explain why she panicked."
Compounding the suspicions raised by Lee's behavior was the autopsy conducted for the state by Dr. Corinne E. Stern, which found that the "body had bruises on the forehead and mouth...indicating the use of force" and concluded that the cause of the baby's death was homicide. It was not until a defense expert challenged those findings that other state examiners stepped in and determined that "[t]he child actually died of pneumonia at birth and never drew a breath." What Stern had thought were bruises were actually signs of decomposition.
As a sidenote, the AP story indicates that Dr. Stern resigned at around the time she completed the autopsy report (a discrimination charge was apparently involved) and is now chief medical examiner in Laredo, Texas. Unfortunately, Lee did end up in jail for 9 months and more time under house arrest, worrying that she'd get the death penalty for a crime she did not commit.
- AP: Murder charge dismissed in Ala. baby death (Yahoo! News)
- AP: Alabama woman who hid dead baby cleared by experts (Google News)
- Frequently Asked Questions about Criminal Defense Law (provided by Joyce & Bittner)
- Criminal Law Center (FindLaw)
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