Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Texas: Momentous decision; Hannah Overton; Texas Caller-Times reports that the state Court of Criminal Appeals has overturned her capital murder conviction and granted her a new trial in connection with the 2006 death of her foster child. Prosecutors contended Overton had fed large amounts of Cajun seasoning to the boy, causing sodium poisoning, and delayed treatment. Appeal allowed on basis of inadequate representation at trial. Her trial lawyers had failed to call a leading authority on salt poisoning who believed the deceased infant had an eating disorder which caused a craving for salty foods.

Overton captured national attention when she was convicted of capital murder in 2007 after her 4-year-old foster son Andrew Burd died at a Corpus Christi hospital. Prosecutors in the 2007 trial argued Overton fed large amounts of Cajun seasoning to the boy, causing sodium poisoning, and delayed treatment........ John Gilmore, one of Overton’s trial attorneys, told the Caller-Times he was thrilled about the court’s decision. “I’m really excited for Hannah. The right thing happened and hopefully she gets back with her kids,” Gilmore said. The state failed to provide the child’s test results, including Andrew’s vomit, that showed low sodium levels and would have coincided with the account Overton claimed, according to court documents filed by Overton’s defense attorneys with the state Court of Criminal Appeals. The vomit would have shown what Andrew last ate and that he had not been poisoned, according to the document. “The lawyers continually asked for the first vomit, knowing that it was significant. Just like the state knew it was and hid it, ” the document states. The document later says “all defense counsel, and even the lead prosecutor’s co-chair, were told that no vomit existed, it was not available.”.........Overton’s attorneys failed to bring to trial Dr. Michael Moritz, a leading authority on salt poisoning from Pittsburgh, the document states. “Dr. Moritz is one of the world’s experts on hypernatremia and held the opinions that Andy’s death was an accident caused by Andy’s voluntary self ingestion, and that his intake of sodium made it impossible for him to survive with earlier medical intervention, ” the document states. “This evidence would have caused the jury to reach a different result.” Moritz believed Andrew had an undiagnosed eating disorder called pica, which caused him to eat excessively and have cravings for salty foods. Moritz believed Andrew’s death was accidental. Moritz had been asked to testify as an expert witness for Overton’s defense, but the jury never heard from him because of scheduling miscommunications between Overton’s attorneys, according to the document."

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