Monday, April 14, 2014

Hannah Overton: Texas; Convicted of murdering the 4-year-old foster son she and her husband were in the process of adopting by poisoning him with salt; Pamela Colloff reports on oral arguments in Colloff's quest to obtain a new trial from Texas's highest criminal court. Texas Monthly.

STORY: "Hannah Overton's day in court," by Pamela Colloff, published by Texas Monthly on April 8, 2014.

SUB-HEADING: "The Corpus Christi mother convicted of murdering her four-year-old foster son has maintained her innocence for eight years, and she finally had a chance to plead her case to Texas’s highest criminal court."

GIST: "Hannah Overton, a Corpus Christi homemaker and mother of five, was arrested in 2006 after Andrew Burd—a four-year-old foster child whom she and her husband were in the process of adopting—mysteriously died of a rare case of “salt poisoning.” Hannah, who had no previous run-ins with CPS, no prior arrests, and no history of violence, was charged with capital murder. Prosecutors painted a macabre portrait, arguing that she snapped under the demands of parenting and force-fed Andrew a lethal amount of salt. After a sensational trial in 2007, she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In the seven years since her conviction, Hannah has maintained her innocence, and she and her legal team have fought to have those claims heard by a higher court. Last Wednesday, Hannah was finally given that chance when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held oral arguments to determine if she should receive a new trial—a rare instance of the court taking such a close look at a criminal conviction. Its decision to do so comes in the wake of a number of high-profile DNA exonerations and reflects the court’s growing unease with a system that has produced a startling number of wrongful convictions.........The judges are now evaluating the evidence that was presented during oral arguments. They may choose to do one of three things: allow Hannah’s conviction to stand, send the case back to Nueces County and order a new trial, or overturn her conviction, which would bring about her release. They have been slow to act in this case, but their decision will most likely come before Election Day this November, when the makeup of the court will change. In the meantime, Hannah, Larry, and their five children—who range in age from fifteen to seven—will wait."

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