The death of baby Matthew Eappen left his parents devastated and determined to fight for justice.
Louise Woodward, of Elton, Cheshire, was only 19 years old when she was accused of murdering the eight-month-old son of Deborah and Sunil Eappen. She reportedly killed Matthew by trembling while working as a nanny for the Massachusetts family in 1997.
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To mark the 25th anniversary of the high profile US trial, a Channel 4 documentary about Woodward’s trial will air tonight at 9:00 p.m. New interviews with witnesses, defense, prosecutors and the jury are on the program.
The killer nanny: did she do it? reviews evidence from the trial where Woodward was convicted of second degree murder and imprisoned for life before the conviction was reduced to negligent homicide and she was released after less than a year in prison.
What happened to Matthew’s parents after the trial?
Sunil and Deborah married in 1990 after they met while studying medicine. Chicago-born Sunil later worked as an anesthetist at a Boston hospital, while Deborah worked part-time as an ophthalmologist after giving birth to their first child, Brendan.
After Matthew’s death, they set up the Matty Eappen Foundation at Boston Children’s Hospital. The couple said at the time: “This foundation was created in his memory to improve the safety and well-being of children by educating the public about the dangers of shaking children and by providing assistance to victims and their families.”
In 1999, the Eappens applied for millions in compensation from Woodward. They reached an out-of-court settlement with Woodward that prevented her from making money by sharing her story about the events surrounding Matthew’s death.
The Eappen family lawyer, Frederic Ellis, said at the time that his clients had “achieved their goal” of ensuring that Louise Woodward did not make a profit.
And Woodward said at the time, “Accepting and agreeing to this settlement does not imply liability in any way. I will always claim that I never hurt Matthew or killed Matthew. And I’ll always do what I can to “keep repeating and hopefully one day to prove it.”
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Deborah told Good Morning America in 2007, “I love being able to tell our children, ‘Look, when things go really wrong, we can make a difference by trying to get things really right. ‘”
Sunil and Deborah have three other children, Brendan, Kevin and Elisabeth. According to The Sun, the couple were still practicing medicine in Massachusetts last year – Sunil as an anesthetist in Boston and Deborah as an ophthalmologist in Wellesley.
The background of the case
On February 4, 1997, Woodward called an ambulance to the family home after Matthew stopped breathing. He was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital and hung on a life support machine.
Woodward was arrested and pleaded not guilty in court of having a child. However, police claimed they admitted shaking the toddler and throwing it on a pile of towels.
Matthew died six days after Woodward called the ambulance. He had suffered a severe cerebral haemorrhage and the doctors decided to turn off his life support device. The prosecution announced that they would be bringing charges of murder.
The trial took place in October 1997. Woodward has been criticized by the public for looking cold throughout the televised trial. Prosecutors argued that she killed the nine-month-old in a “frustrated, unhappy and angry rage”.
Among the experts included brain surgeon Joseph Medsen, who said the head injuries Matthew sustained could have been days or even weeks prior to his hospitalization.
Pathologist Gerard Feigin, who performed the autopsy, found no evidence that Matthew was shaken, but Detective Sergeant William Byrne said Woodward told him she was “maybe a bit rude” with Matthew after he cried “cramped and picky “. .
Almost two weeks after the trial, it was up to Woodward to share her version of the events of the night she called the ambulance. reported the BBC at the time. She described desperate attempts to resuscitate Matthew after he stopped breathing. She denied shaking him violently, beating him, or injuring him.
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But prosecutors called her “a liar and aspiring actress”. And Woodward collapsed in tears on October 30th when she was found guilty of second degree murder in a mandatory life sentence. “I didn’t … I didn’t hurt Matty,” she said.
Woodward’s mother said the verdict was a “dire mistake”. The next day, Judge Hiller Zobel sent Ms. Woodward to prison for life.
In the days that followed, protests broke out in the United States and her hometown of Elton. It also found that the jury was divided over the murder charge.
Woodward’s legal team filed motions after the conviction, calling for the conviction to be changed. And on November 10, Judge Zobel reduced the conviction to negligent homicide, saying: “The circumstances in which the defendant acted were marked by confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice in the legal sense, which a conviction for second degree murder “.
The judge added, “I am morally certain that it would be a miscarriage of justice to have this defendant convicted of second degree murder on the basis of this evidence.”
Woodward’s sentence was reduced to the time served. In her case, it was 279 days to trial – and she was able to leave prison. Assistant District Attorney Gerald Leone appealed the judge’s decision unsuccessfully, and Woodward returned to the UK in June 1998.
the Liverpool Echo reports that Louise studied law at London South Bank University on her return to the UK. She graduated with a 2-2 degree in 2002 and began a career with a law firm in Manchester before dropping out as a dance instructor. Woodward moved to Shropshire after marrying the boss of a truck rental company and becoming a mother ever since.
The killer nanny: did she do it? will air on Sunday (January 9th) at 9 p.m. on Channel 4.