Cross-examination of nanny called 'minefield' for prosecution
October 26, 1997
Web posted at: 7:22 p.m. EST (0022 GMT)
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) - Gerard Leone Jr., the
prosecutor who on Monday is to cross-examine the British
nanny accused of murder, has a difficult task ahead of him.
He has to be tough, but he can't appear arrogant.
"He has to go after her, shake her credibility. But, at the
same time, he can't be seen to be bullying her," said Peter
Elikann, chairman of the Massachusetts Bar Association's
criminal justice section.
"It's not an easy task and it will take a very talented
lawyer," Elikann said. "He has got to tap dance through a
Leone, whom colleagues described as "a talented lawyer," is
leading the case against Louise Woodward, the 19-year-old au
pair from England who is charged with first-degree murder in
the February death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen.
On the stand Thursday, Woodward came across as soft-spoken,
sweet and very believable, according to some who watched her
testimony broadcast live in both the United States and
England. She wept as she described how she found Matthew
gasping for breath and then called for help.
"Cross examination of a young female witness by a physically
powerful male attorney is always a minefield," said criminal
defense attorney and former Middlesex County prosecutor J.C.
"He must make his points without appearing to bully or trick
or trap a young witness unfairly."
Both Carney and Elikann said that unless Leone shakes
Woodward's credibility, the charge of murder in the first
degree likely will not stand.
Woodward, who has been held without bail for eight months,
faces a sentence of life in prison without parole if
convicted of murder in the first degree. It is not known if
the judge hearing the case, Hiller Zobel, will allow jurors
to consider lesser charges.
Zobel, however, told the jury that they can expect to get the
case by Tuesday at the latest.
Woodward, who comes from a suburb of Liverpool, said she came
to the United States to work as a nanny in June 1996 so she
could learn about the culture and because she was unsure of
what she wanted to study in college. She was paid $115 a week
and given room and board.
Woodward said she called police on the afternoon of February
4 when she found Matthew unresponsive in his crib. She said
she tried to give the baby cardiopulmonary resuscitation and
called for emergency help when she was unable to reach the
The baby died five days later. Prosecutors charged Woodward
with first-degree murder, accusing her of shaking Matthew and
slamming his head against a hard surface.
The prosecution argues that Woodward shook the infant in
anger because of a curfew imposed by the family limited her
social activities. Matthew's parents had testified that they
were unhappy with Woodward because of her hours and had
issued an ultimatum about being more diligent a week before
the baby died.
On the witness stand, Woodward said she had left an earlier
job as a nanny in another Massachusetts town because of a
curfew imposed by that family. She admitted that the Eappens
had expressed concerns to her about late hours, but said that
she did not have the impression they were going to fire her.
The defense maintains that Matthew died as the result of a
head injury that occurred before February 4.
Reuters contributed to this report.