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Au pair jurors rehear doctor’s testimony, ask to hear more; judge says no

October 30, 1997

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ Saying no transcript was available, the judge overseeing the case of a 19-year-old British au pair today rejected the jury’s latest request to review a defense expert’s testimony suggesting the teen did not kill a baby in her care.

Jurors deliberating for a third day in the case of Louise Woodward asked to review testimony from Dr. Jan Leestma, who testified that the 8-month-old infant died from an injury that occurred two to three weeks before he was hospitalized on Feb. 4. Matthew Eappen died five days later.

Prosecutors, who charged Woodward with first-degree murder, said the teen-ager severely shook the baby and slammed his head on Feb. 4. Her defense says the baby died from an injury suffered days if not weeks earlier.

Judge Hiller B. Zobel told jurors that Leestma’s two days of testimony would take too long to go through to transcribe the relevant portions. He said they should resume their deliberations based on their notes and their memories.

The judge also reminded the jurors that they must end their deliberations if they decide the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The instructions were a small victory for Woodward’s defense, who had argued unsuccessfully on Wednesday to have Zobel re-emphasize the reasonable doubt element.

Woodward sat in court reading letters as her lawyers discussed the issue at sidebar with prosecutors and the judge. Woodward, whose case has attracted widespread attention, particularly in England, has been flooded with mail and gifts from supporters. This morning, a fruit basket and bouquet of flowers for the teen-ager were delivered to the courthouse.

The request for the doctor’s testimony was the second time the nine women and three men have asked for repeated testimony. Earlier today, a court stenographer read sections of testimony from a pediatric neurosurgeon that the defense says points to Woodward’s innocence.

The jury on Wednesday had requested a transcript of what Dr. Joseph Russell Madsen said about fluid he found in the baby’s skull during emergency surgery at Children’s Hospital. At issue was the color of the fluid Madsen described; on cross-examination he said some of it was clear.

Zobel decided not to give jurors the transcript but _ in contrast with today’s ruling _ agreed to have sections of the testimony read back to jurors this morning. Only a few minutes of testimony were involved; a court stenographer read the lines to jurors this morning.

Madsen had described a jelly-like blood clot that squirted out of the baby’s brain. At one point, he said, the clot was red in color. But on cross-examination, he said some of it was clear, which the defense says is a sign of an old injury.

Prosecutor Gerard Leone Jr. had argued against giving the jury the Madsen transcript, saying they should rely on their memory and the notes.

But Barry Scheck, one of Woodward’s defense lawyers, said the jury should be able to get what they wanted.

``They are entitled to have their question responded to exactly as they put it,″ Scheck said.

Both sides made similar arguments this morning in regard to the Leestma transcript.

The only other request made by the jurors came Tuesday, the first day of deliberations, when they requested a copy of the judge’s instructions and a clarification of the difference between first- and second-degree murder. Zobel sent the jury back to deliberate with a tape recording of his charge.

At Woodward’s request, the jury was told to consider only a first- or second-degree murder charge, both of which require a finding of malice, and not manslaughter. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence; second-degree means a life sentence with the chance of parole in 15 years.

In closing arguments, the defense described Woodward as a loving au pair who only tried to save the baby in her care. She had testified she only shook him slightly to revive him when she realized he was ill Feb. 4. Prosecutors, however, called her a ``little aspiring actress″ who lied about what happened to Matthew.

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