Murder verdict sparks outrage
October 31, 1997
Web posted at: 6:12 a.m. EST (1112 GMT)
(CNN) -- The guilty verdict against 19-year-old British au pair Louise Woodward sparked emotional reactions from both sides of the Atlantic.
"I don't know what went wrong," said a visibly weary Barry Scheck, one of Woodward's defense attorneys. "Because I look at this evidence and this is an inconceivable verdict to me."
Woodward was convicted in a Massachusetts courtroom Thursday of the second-degree murder of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen, a child who had been in her care.
Britons awoke to tabloid headlines proclaiming the verdict: "Guilty." The case has been the focus of press and public scrutiny in Britain, where televised trials are an oddity.
"We don't have televised trials in Britain, so this is the first time we've really seen a trial like this that has involved a British defendant," said Glenda Cooper of Britain's The Independent. "It's been a sensational case, and one that has gripped the British media."
"This morning, there is sort of disbelief and anger that this has happened," Cooper said. "I think that most people here thought that there would be an acquittal, and they feel that something has gone terribly wrong with American justice."
No where has that reaction been more profound than in Elton, Woodward's hometown. Supporters, watching the verdict at The Rigger pub, gasped and wept as the verdict was read.
Elton resident Hazel Mayamba-Kasongo was adamant that justice had not been served.
"It is the wrong verdict," said Mayamba-Kasongo. "We have been working since February to help this family and the real work is going to start now, because that girl does not deserve to go near any prison. That girl did not commit any crime."
"That girl has been a terrible, terrible, terrible victim of a most awful miscarriage of justice," Mayamba-Kasongo continued. "All the pundits were saying that she was going to be found not guilty. Where they got that decision from based on the evidence, I've got no idea." 298K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Val Ross, also of Elton, hopes that Americans will demand Woodward's release. "I hope that all you Americans are going to stand up and say, 'Come on, get this innocent girl out of jail.'"
"Just stand up and send you letters to where ever. This young girl has not done anything. She would never ever hurt any child. Just stand up and be counted like I am doing now. I plead with you. I really do plead with you. Just stand up and be counted." 247K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Defense team 'horrified'
Woodward's defense team also expressed shock at the verdict.
"I am horrified by the verdict, and I am very very shocked and disappointed that justice was miscarried in this case," defense attorney Andrew Good said. "I feel very strongly that anyone who heard the evidence in this case knows that Louise Woodward did absolutely nothing wrong, and did her very best to save this child's life. I am trying to have faith that the system will correct this injustice."
"This fight is not over," said defense attorney Scheck. "All of our attorneys remain united in our belief in this young woman's innocence and we believe this with all our heart. And we will continue to fight and we will present motions to Judge Zobel to reconsider this verdict and we will take every appeal and we will do everything as long as we live and breathe to correct what we think was a very bad verdict."
Elaine Sharp, who has hosted Woodward's mother during the trial, had more personal reflections on the verdict.
"When I left Louise Woodward tonight, she was peaceful herself, and confident in the knowledge we know she's innocent, and we do know that eventually justice will be had for this young woman," said Sharp. 145K/12 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Victory 'bittersweet' for prosecutors
"We are obviously pleased and satisfied with the verdict," said prosecutor Gerard Leone. "I'd just like to underscore one point, and that is this, that my concern remains the same as it was the first day I took this case over, and that is with Debbie, Sunil and Brendan Eappen. That they are able to recover from all of this. And my thoughts and prayers are with all of the Eappens and their friends and family at this time." 306K/27 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Prosecutor Martha Coakley said that the jury did its job.
"In presenting a complex medical case in the courtroom with the restrictions of question-and-answer and with a very experienced and well-mounted defense, you can create a reasonable doubt ... That did not happen. At any rate, it (the verdict) does not bring Matthew Eappen back." 315K/28 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
"This is a bittersweet moment," said echoed prosecutor Thomas Reilly. "This was the correct verdict. There is no verdict, whatever the verdict was tonight, that can bring Matthew Eappen back to his parents, and to his brother Brendan