A South Carolina woman who killed her baby daughter by giving her what prosecutors say was a fatal dose of morphine through her breast milk has been jailed for 20 years.
Former nurse Stephanie Greene, 39, was convicted in Spartanburg on Friday of homicide by child abuse, involuntary manslaughter and unlawful conduct toward a child.
Six-week-old Alexis died of respiratory failure on 13 November 2010 - a toxicology report from the baby's autopsy found a level of morphine in the child's body that a pathologist testified could have been lethal for an adult.
Prosecutor Barry Barnette said Greene knew the dangers of taking painkillers while pregnant and breastfeeding and had obtained the prescription drugs by concealing her pregnancy from doctors. She lost her nursing license in 2004 for trying to get drugs illegally.
Greene's lawyer said she was only trying to stop debilitating pain from a car crash more than a decade before and relied on her own judgment and medical research on the internet instead of the advice of doctors and is still overwhelmed with grief from the loss of her child.
Both the prosecutor and Greene's lawyer agreed that no mother has ever been prosecuted in the United States for killing her child through a substance transmitted in breast milk.
And Greene's lawyer Rauch Wise said that prosecutors couldn’t prove how the baby got the morphine and there is little scientific evidence that enough morphine can gather in breast milk to kill an infant.
Greene's husband did not talk to reporters, but Wise said he supported his wife and was devastated as he prepared to raise their 7-year-old son alone.
Greene's fourth pregnancy in 2010 was unplanned, but she and her husband of 10 years joyously accepted the surprise, her lawyer said. She has two children from a previous marriage.
Alexis was born healthy, and her mother chose to breast feed, but forty-six days later, Greene called medics to report her baby was unconscious in her bed.
On a recording of the call, she sounded groggy and unfocused and investigators at the scene found dozens of pill bottles and painkiller patches on her nightstand where the couple's then 4-year-old son could get to them.
Greene, who could have faced life behind bars, will have to serve 16 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.
Additional reporting by Associated PressReuse content