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Court To E-Mail Au Pair Decision

April 14, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ Officials at Massachusetts’ highest court said Tuesday they plan to release the decision about the Louise Woodward case electronically _ a cyberspace first for the Supreme Judicial Court.

But administrators cautioned that their announcement does not mean an opinion about the former British au pair is imminent.

The court began sending informational e-mails to about 50 reporters and editors Tuesday, telling them that they will receive a decision by e-mail at 10 a.m. on the day the decision is ready.

The media outlets will then be able to post the decision on their websites.

There will be no advance notice as to when the opinion will be released. A decision on paper will also be available.

``There’s been extraordinary media interest in this case and this is the first time that we have used the court’s information technologies to respond to the enormous number of inquiries,″ said court spokeswoman Joan Kenney.

Ms. Woodward is awaiting a decision about her conviction in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen of Newton.

Both prosecutors and the defense have appealed.

A decision by the high court could mean several things: she could be free to return to England; she could be sent back to prison; or she could be ordered back to court for resentencing.

Ms. Woodward, 20, has been in legal limbo since Superior Court Judge Hiller Zobel reduced a jury’s second-degree murder conviction to manslaughter and set her free, sentencing her to the 279 days she had served since her arrest. She was ordered to remain in Massachusetts while both sides appealed.

Prosecutors asked the court to reinstate the jury verdict and the mandatory 15-year minimum prison sentence it carries. Defense lawyers had asked the high court to either overturn the conviction or uphold Zobel’s ruling so Ms. Woodward could return to England.

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