Nanny Trial: Americans express shock and sympathy

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The Independent Online
"It sucks, I'm telling you, it sucks". That is a television cameraman, I don't know his name, packing his equipment into his van at two in the morning. He knows I am English and he is speaking of Louise Woodward's murder conviction.

Minutes later the hotel receptionist says: "It is wrong; she's innocent. I'm so sorry" .

There are not many voices in Boston, perhaps not in America, I can hear applauding the jury's verdict. If the defence yesterday was expressing shock and deep disappointment at the decision, it is far from alone. If they want to make Woodward's appeal into a cause celebre, a Guildford Four of the United States, they should have little difficulty. More voices yesterday: "It's awful. It's terrible, I just don't believe she did it," said Kim Taylor, 28, a tourist who was visiting Boston from Colorado. I have a daughter 20 months old. I know how much she falls and hits her head".

Another man on the street, a Bostonian exclaimed: "I think she was hosed . I'm really unhappy. I saw her on trial. I believed her. I really don't think she did it".

Those at the trial who believed she would be found innocent had based that optimism in part also on the feeling that this jury, perhaps any jury, simply would not want to see another life lost, if not actually lost then lost in a sentence in jail. Such sympathetic thoughts apparently did not prevail in the jury room. Outside, amongst the millions watching the trial on cable TV, they did however.

"I was disappointed. Not in the jury, but I didn't want to believe we're sending another kid to jail," said Bob O'Neil, a hotel manager in the city. "It's the second tragedy. The first one is Matthew Eappen. The second one is we're sending this girl to jail."

And there was anxiety too among Americans about how Britons would react to the verdict. The British response, suggested Rich Davenport, has "less to do with the legal system and more to do with it being an emotional issue. I don't think it's fair to blame the American justice system in general. It's just this particular case and the way it was handled".

Even experts in Boston's legal community were astonished and dismayed. Mostly, they lamented the decision, taken by Woodward herself, to opt to deny the jury the chance to deliver a lesser verdict of manslaughter. "It's easy in hindsight to second-guess everything that went on," said defence lawyer Robert Gorege. "But its clear that taking the manslaughter verdict away from the jury - which was supposed to to be a strategic move - has in a way backfired".