I am scared of going back to jail

The waiting is nearly over for Louise Woodward, the nanny convicted of manslaughter. Kim Sengupta reports
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The Independent Online
LOUISE WOODWARD, the British nanny convicted of killing baby Matthew Eappen, has spoken for the first time about her hopes and fears as she prepares for an appeal against her conviction tomorrow.

While the 20-year-old from Cheshire waits to learn her fate in the American courts, a team of eminent British neurologists and pathologists have concluded after studying the evidence that she is the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

The British experts are highly critical of their US counterparts, and unanimously agree that Matthew was suffering from a three-week-old injury, "and the slightest thing could have caused it to bleed again".

Woodward's fate - whether she is freed to leave the country or returned to jail - will be decided by seven judges at Massachusetts Supreme Court tomorrow. In an interview with Channel 4's Dispatches programme, she says: "Everyone tells me not to worry. But I am scared - I am scared of going back to jail. My best hope for the appeal right now is that they would say well this was ridiculous, should never have gone to trial, acquit her, let her go.

"I always thought that I would be exonerated anyway through the trial just by putting on a good defence and creating a more than reasonable doubt, that I would be cleared and I had all these images of walking out of the courtroom, you know it didn't quite go to plan ...

"I guess the best I can hope for at the appeal is that they will at least maintain the status quo. I just hope that they won't won't reinstate the second degree. The most I hope for, I guess, is that they will just leave it alone and let me go home".

The medical evidence was considered for the Dispatches programme by a professor of neurosurgery at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, a neuroradiologist and neuropathologist from Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre, and a paediatric pathologist from Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham. They decided Ms Woodward could not have killed Matthew by shaking him and banging his head.

Professor John Pickard, from Addenbrooke's, says: "It's pretty incontrovertible ... that it was a previous clot." And Dr David Fagan, from Nottingham, adds: " I think it's very worrying from the point of view of neuropathology in the States, I have to say. I find it incredible that an apparently competent neuropathologist should miss something like that."

Woodward's lawyers, led by Barry Scheck, will ask the Supreme Court to clear her of killing Matthew. If that request is rejected they will ask the court to confirm the trial judge's reduction of the charge and accompanying 279-day jail sentence. The prosecution will ask the appeal judges to reinstate Ms Woodward's second-degree murder conviction, which carries a life sentence.

The defence and the prosecution will each have 25 minutes to present their cases. The judges will deliver their verdict "in weeks or even months time", according to court official Liz Fearnley.

Mr Scheck, speaking for the first time about the appeal says: "If Louise loses this she could spend the rest of her life in jail and since I believe very much we have proven that this is an old injury and that she couldn't have done what she was accused of doing I find that unimaginable, so it's pretty scary".

Woodward says she has no regrets about still being in the US. She continued: " I am kind of glad in a way that I didn't just leave court and then get on the next plane and get the hell out of America ... because it makes me realise America isn't all bad

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