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Ex-Au Pair To Put Media On Trial

August 31, 1998

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) _ Her trial attracted a global television audience. Now Louise Woodward, the former au pair convicted of killing an American baby, is turning the tables and putting television on trial.

Ms. Woodward and one of her American lawyers, Barry Scheck, plan to take part Monday in a debate at the Edinburgh International Television Festival over whether allowing TV cameras into courts here would generate what many Britons see as trials by media in the United States.

Ms. Woodward, the first British woman to have a trial shown on live TV, returned home June 18 after a Massachusetts court upheld her conviction of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen. He died Feb. 9, 1997, while in her care.

Since her return, Ms. Woodward, 20, has given one television interview _ to the BBC, in which she reiterated her claims of innocence _ and otherwise disappeared from public view.

``I think she has things she wanted to say to the media and that is why she is coming here,″ said Ruth Pitt, an executive with Britain’s Granada television channel and one of the organizers of the conference, which has the theme ``Television vs. The People.″

``The media is being put on trial,″ Ms. Pitt said. ``We are asking ourselves how the media deal with these cases and how the British media may deal with these kind of cases if British trials are ever televised.″

In November, a judge reduced Ms. Woodward’s conviction from murder to involuntary manslaughter and sentenced her to the 279 days she had already spent in jail after her arrest.

She returned to somewhat of a heroine’s welcome, at least in her north England hometown of Elton, where her murder conviction being overturned was hailed with raucous champagne celebrations in the pub.

To many on this side of the Atlantic, the unprecedented sight of a young British woman being tried live on TV both fascinated and appalled.

But the British attitude toward Ms. Woodward appeared to shift, prompted by distaste about the celebrations and her star status in the light of a baby’s death, and objections to the possibility of her making a fortune by selling her story.

Ms. Woodward has promised not to accept any money for her story.

Organizers stressed that she would get no fee for her appearance Monday.

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