Your cover story on Audrey Edmunds, convicted of shaking a baby in her care, took our breath away ("This Is Not My Life Forever," 6/1/07). As law students in the Wisconsin Innocence Project, we had the honor and great sadness of working on Ms. Edmunds' case.
Of the dozens of cases we encountered, hers was the most compelling and tragic. In part this is because the evidence so powerfully points to Ms. Edmunds' innocence. In part it is because the railroading of Ms. Edmunds, a loving mother and an experienced and caring babysitter, could happen to anyone.
Reporter Kenneth Burns understated the shift in medical opinion that has occurred since her conviction. At the 1996 trial, Dr. Robert Huntington and others testified that the evidence showed that Natalie was violently shaken shortly before Ms. Edmunds called for help.
Over the past 10 years, however, medical researchers and practitioners have seriously questioned that symptoms like those Natalie exhibited mean an infant has been recently abused. New studies show that many types of nonabusive injuries can cause retinal hemorrhages in infants, and that babies with physical markers similar to Natalie's often appear and behave normally for days following trauma.
In short, medical experts like Dr. Huntington are now uncomfortable with earlier conclusions that condemned Ms. Edmunds. The legal system, especially judges and prosecutors, should likewise be uncomfortable with those conclusions.
We find it difficult to conceive of a jury that would convict Ms. Edmunds under the current medical evidence. It is unjust and disappointing that the court refused to let a jury hear this new evidence. Yet such harsh denials are not uncommon.
Many cases as specious and medically unsupported as Ms. Edmunds' have been overturned on the basis of new scientific evidence that invalidates an original finding of guilt. The Court of Appeals should recognize this judicial travesty and give Ms. Edmunds the chance to defend herself with the most accurate science available.
Kelda Helen Roys, JD, Ryan R. Worrell, JD, Nicole J. Moody, JD candidate
How sad and pathetic. Audrey Edmunds has essentially lost her family, been denied the pleasure to watch her daughters grow up, and had her husband divorce her through no fault of her own. All because the justice system once again got it wrong.
And for what? Just because the prosecution thought that the testimony of Dr. Huntington, who testified that the evidence of shaken-baby syndrome "probably" occurred during the time the baby was in Edmunds care, testimony which he has since essentially retracted.
Lee Nichols, Elmhurst, Ill.
Thank you on the excellent article. You raised important issues that have been a part of this case for more 10 years.
We pray that the day will come when what really caused the death of the child is made known. Many of us are convinced that an innocent woman's life has been ruined and three children have been denied the daily care of a very loving mother.
Rev. Norman W. Parsons (retired), Waunakee
The autopsy report from the start made it plain that the child had pneumonia. It was also clear that her brain, neck and spine were not injured. It is unbelievable that the man who did that autopsy was among the clowns who certified that this baby died from shaking with blunt force, while there was no bruise to show any blunt force.
It would really be something to find out how and why this case got so corrupted. From a disgracefully wrong indictment, to the two versions of the autopsy report, to the changes in sworn statements, to denying her an appeal under that false statement. She wasn't a criminal, just a housewife making a few dollars caring for children.
Zoe Metallo, Waukegan, Ill.
Hurley's blasé attitude
You'll have to forgive me if I do not feel bad for Stephen Hurley's sense of indignation at being asked to swear an oath of secrecy in the June 2004 John Doe proceeding ("Hurley for the Defense," 6/22/07). I sat in on the Supreme Court testimony where Mr. Hurley was smug enough to admit that the whole case was nothing more than a "contest of wills."
It's a shame Mr. Hurley cannot call his "contest of wills" what it really was: a shrewd legal tactic to add lengthy delay to that John Doe proceeding.
I consider Mr. Hurley's blasé attitude a slap in the face to every family member that has been waiting years for answers to come out of that investigation. One of the victims of the murder in question was my cousin, Brian Lazzaro. While Mr. Hurley's "matter of principle" was argued, Brian's murderer continued and still continues to walk the streets, literally getting away with murder.
I am cynical enough to realize that Brian will never be afforded the same level of justice as other murder victims. He made some poor choices in life...choices that definitely played a factor in his death.
It doesn't lessen the pain his family feels. It's been nearly five years since my aunt and uncle found their own son's body in a pond on Sept. 5, 2002. We've been waiting for answers all this time, while DNA evidence supposedly still languishes somewhere in a lab and Mr. Hurley plays games of legal semantics with the Supreme Court.
So, again, forgive me if I do not feel too bad for Mr. Hurley's bruised sensibilities. At least he's never had to stand in a funeral home and explain to a small child why he cannot see his father any more.
Cruising for crime
As a longtime south-side property owner, I'm upset with the ongoing misapplication of police resources to the Olin Park cruising zone (Watchdog, 6/8/07). I read Capt. Jim Wheeler's monthly "Southside Report" and see the litany of personal and property crimes recorded.
I find it totally unbelievable that any police resources are working Olin Park. As the owner of a four-unit rental property, I want beat cops walking and driving around my property - not improving their tans at Olin Park! This is the worst prioritization of police resources I've seen in years.
There are greater dangers to public safety than men with their pants down at the park. It's time to get the police out of Olin and on to Park Street, Badger Road, Petra Place and Fish Hatchery Road, where the problems are.
Mark Porter, Oregon