'Eappen injured by wild brother'

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN a year after a Massachusetts jury convicted the British au pair, Louise Woodward, of murdering Matthew Eappen, the baby in her care, one of her defence lawyers has suggested that the head injury that caused the child's death might have been inflicted by his elder brother.

In a startling interview with Lawyers Weekly, Harvey Silverglate conceded that Woodward's defence team made a mistake by not trying to implicate somebody else in the crime.

"In retrospect, we would have tried it differently," he said. He also revealed that while they maintained a calm demeanour in public, Woodward's parents were "hysterical" about their daughter's plight.

Specifically, Mr Silverglate, who led Woodward's defence with his law firm partner, toldthe American legal journal that they had "some stuff" that would have called into question the conduct of other members of the Eappen family, including the brother, Brendan.

"We didn't cast any aspersions, any blemishes on the Eappens. That was our plan. We had loads of witnesses prepared to do it," Mr Silverglate said. "I can tell you that we had some stuff, and I'm not going to tell you what it was ..."

He added: "The issue of whether the older brother is well-behaved or not; well, that's relevant."

Mr Silverglate made the comments after being named one of the top 10 lawyers in Massachusetts by Lawyers Weekly. They are doubly controversial because they come on the eve of the civil trial in the case, which is scheduled to begin in Boston next week. The trial could result in Woodward, on the basis of her manslaughter conviction, being ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars in damages to the Eappens.

Last night, Steve Collins, a Woodward family friend, said neither Louise or her parents would comment. But he added: "It was a lawyer's comment in a lawyers' magazine meant purely for the professionals. It was an argument at the back of our minds at the time of the criminal case, but I believe that Louise's lawyers played it right.

"They were sensitive to how a jury might react to big lawyers blaming a young baby for the death of his brother. Maybe they could have placed the idea in the minds of the jury, but they decided to defend Louise rather than to attack the Eappen family, which I think was the right thing to do."

The latest revelation could encourage Woodward's lawyers to stage a more vigorous defence at the civil trial and use it, effectively, to retry the entire case and attempt once more to prove her innocence.

Frederic Ellis, who will represent the Eappens in that trial, called the remarks "totally improper". He said: "The Eappen family has suffered enough. They certainly don't need these aspersions cast on them."

Wendy Murphy, a former public prosecutor in Massachusetts, also lashed out at Mr Silverglate. "He should be named top-10 scumbag of the year. It's one thing to point the finger at an innocent person as a matter of strategy during a trial, but to do something so cruel after the fact is absolutely outrageous."

While there were rumours during the trial that Woodward's lawyers were ready to shift the blame on Brendan, who was two at the time, theydemurred for fear of antagonising the jury. They relied on their central contention that Matthew died not from a violent shaking but from a minor, three-week- old injury that left a blood clot which eventually exploded catastrophically inside his skull.

Mr Silverglate refused to clarify yesterday what evidence he might have presented to implicate Brendan. He simply told Lawyers Weekly: "We possibly made a mistake not bringing out that the parents were imperfect, that the older brother was imperfect. The older brother in fact was quite a wild kid."