Saturday, May 05, 2007

Update on Cathy Henderson Case


In their successful motion to vacate Cathy's April execution date (see item below), Cathy's lawyers stated:

We anticipate that, when he has completed his investigation, Dr. Plunkett [the defense expert in injury biomechanics] will be able to advise this Court and all others that the injuries sustained by [Brandon Baugh] were entirely consistent with an accidental fall, and that advances in science now show that the injuries were not ― as the State claimed at trial in 1995 ― the product of a willful, deliberate, and murderous blow delivered by Ms. Henderson.

Accident v. deliberate act

One of the most damning pieces of evidence against Cathy at her trial was the testimony of Drs Bayardo (then Travis County Chief Medical Examiner) and Veasey (then Lubbock County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner). Dr Bayardo performed the autopsy on Brandon Baugh; Dr Veasey reviewed the autopsy report and provided an opinion based on that report. Each of these witnesses stated that Brandon's injuries could not possibly have been the result of an accident and that the nature of the injuries "proved" that Cathy deliberately killed Brandon by striking him with great force.

Dr Bayardo testified that in his opinion, Brandon died from skull injuries "consistent with striking his head against a blunt object," that it would have been "impossible" for the injury to have been caused "by a fall of four to four-and-a-half feet", that the baby would have to have fallen "from a height higher than a two-story building," or have had his head "run over by a car" or have been "involved in a motor vehicle accident".

The State offered no evidence that crime scene investigators found any evidence of the child’s death in any of the manners hypothesized by Dr. Bayardo.

Before her trial in 1995, Cathy's counsel presented a motion asking the Court for the funds necessary to hire an expert to perform a biomechanical investigation. The Court denied the motion without comment or explanation.

Cathy's defense team has now gained the services of an expert in injury biomechanics who will provide an in-depth analysis of the prosecution testimony about Brandon's injuries. This recently developed science is the "DNA" of Cathy's case. You can read more about it in the Motion to Vacate the Execution Date and the Memorandum in support of that motion presented to Judge Wisser by Cathy's current lawyers.

Where to now?

April 20th

Here's a quick update from Cathy's lawyers about the status of her case after Judge Wisser granted the 60-day reprieve:

We are working on a subsequent habeas petition that we expect to file before the end of April or early in May. We are waiting for all of the expert reports to be finalized before we file the petition. The petition will be filed with the same court that tried Cathy. The state will have an opportunity to oppose that petition and then the court will decide whether further proceedings are necessary. If the court decides not to order further proceedings, we will file a similar petition in the federal court.

If the court does decide to hold further proceedings, then it is likely her execution date will be postponed further. The bottom line is that we do not know what the timing is going to be. Once we file our petition, we will know more and we will be sure to advise everyone of any future hearing dates.

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