Friday, April 17, 2015

Hannah Overton: Why did Texas's highest court refrain from addressing the claim that the prosecution had failed to disclose to Overton’s trial lawyers crucial evidence that the salt level of Andrew’s stomach contents when he arrived at the urgent care center was 48 milliequivalents per liter? That question arises from The National Registry's account of Hannah Overton's exoneration. (Must Read. HL);


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The National Registry's account of Hannah Overton's exoneration highlights her lawyer's claim that the prosecution had failed to disclose to Overton’s trial lawyers  crucial evidence that the salt level of Andrew’s stomach contents when he arrived at the urgent care center was 48 milliequivalents per liter. The account also informs us the highly unusual fact that one of the two prosecutors at Overton’s  said that she believed the lead prosecutor on the case, Sandra Eastwood, had withheld evidence favorable to Overton’s defense. That is not a common occurrence.  We also learn that in its decision ordering a new trial for Overton for other reasons, "The appeals court did not address the claim that the prosecution had concealed evidence of the boy’s comparatively low sodium level when he first arrived at the clinic." Can this be seen as anything less than an endorsement by Texas's highest court  of the prosecution's pernicious conduct that could have led to the murder conviction of an innocent woman - and  her sentence to life without parole?

Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

POST: "Hannah Overton," by Maurice Possley, published by the National Registry of Exonerations.

GIST: "The petition claimed that the prosecution had failed to disclose to Overton’s trial lawyers evidence that the salt level of Andrew’s stomach contents when he arrived at the urgent care center was 48 milliequivalents per liter. This was inconsistent with the state’s accusation that she had just force fed him sodium raising his blood sodium level to 245 milliequivalents per liter. The higher level recorded later, the defense contended, was the result of fluids and sodium medicines that were given to Andrew as part of the efforts to save his life. Moreover, the petition claimed that Overton’s trial lawyers had provided a constitutionally inadequate legal defense by failing to call an expert witness, Dr. Michael Moritz, who could have testified that the boy was not poisoned by Overton and likely had died because of accidental self-initiated consumption earlier. The witness had been interviewed under oath by the defense and prosecution during the trial, but was not called to testify and the recording of his deposition was not presented to the jury. The petition also included a letter from Anna Jimenez, who had been one of the two prosecutors at Overton’s trial. She said that she believed the lead prosecutor on the case, Sandra Eastwood, had withheld evidence favorable to Overton’s defense. In 2010, before the petition was filed, Jimenez as appointed District Attorney and had fired Eastwood for unrelated reasons. She ran for election in November 2010 and left the office after she was defeated by Mark Skurka.  “I am writing this letter because I do believe that an injustice has been done. I do not believe there was sufficient evidence to indicate that Hannah Overton intentionally killed Andrew Burd,” Jimenez wrote. “It is because I witnessed Sandra Eastwood's behavior before, during and after trial that I fear she may have purposely withheld evidence that may have been favorable to Hannah Overton's defense.” The petition said evidence suggested that Andrew's death was linked to a genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome, which can cause children to eat bizarre objects. District Judge Jose Longoria, who presided over Overton’s trial, dismissed the petition the same day it was filed. Orr appealed and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered Longoria to hold an evidentiary hearing. During several days of testimony, Overton’s lawyers conceded they had failed to provide an adequate legal defense by failing to call Moritz, an expert on hypernatremia—a medical condition related to an elevated salt level. Moritz testified that Andrew exhibited symptoms of emotional deprivation syndrome, which is often associated with extreme eating habits. Moritz also said that the amount of Cajun spices needed to generate a sodium level of more than 250 would be enormously higher than the amount Rotta testified to. Moritz said that Rotta’s failure to evaluate the cause Andrew’s hypernatremia was a significant oversight.  And Moritz also testified that Overton would have had extreme difficulty in forcing an amount of salt or Cajun spices into Andrew that would have resulted in such a high sodium level, but that if Andrew had a psychological problem, such as emotional deprivation syndrome, he could have consumed that amount voluntarily. Despite the testimony, the judge denied the writ again. In September 2014, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the trial judge’s finding, granted the writ and ordered a new trial. The appeals court found that Overton’s lawyers had failed to provide an adequate legal defense. The appeals court did not address the claim that the prosecution had concealed evidence of the boy’s comparatively low sodium level when he first arrived at the clinic."
The entire post can be found at:

http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=4674

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: 

Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.
 
I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:
 
http://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2013/12/the-charles-smith-award-presented-to_28.html
 
I look forward to hearing from readers at:

hlevy15@gmail.com.
 
Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;