Au pair Woodward appeals delayed until Monday
Electrical fire in basement of Boston courthouse
March 6, 1998
Web posted at: 10:04 a.m. EST (1504 GMT)
BOSTON (CNN) -- A hearing on the fate of British au pair Louise Woodward was postponed until Monday when an electrical transformer exploded in the basement of the courthouse on Friday, reportedly injuring at least two people.
The building, portions of which filled with smoke, was evacuated and electrical power was shut off. The hearing was to have been held on the 13th floor of the Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston.
At issue for the seven-member Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in the state of Massachusetts, is whether Woodward should be put back behind bars or allowed to return home.
Prosecutors want the young woman returned to prison, while defense attorneys want her criminal record wiped clean.
In October, a jury convicted Woodward of second-degree murder for the death last year of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen.
One week later, Superior Court Judge Hiller Zobel, who presided over the trial, reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter and sentenced her to the 279 days she had already served since her arrest in February 1997.
She was ordered to remain in Massachusetts while the case is appealed.
After the appeals hearing, the justices were to take the case under advisement. It could take weeks or months before they make a ruling.
People evacuating the courthouse
Woodward, now 20, was accused of violently shaking and slamming the baby on February 4, 1997. Matthew died five days later.
Prosecutors planned to argue that Zobel erred in reducing the jury's verdict and sentencing Woodward to time served.
They want the court to reinstate the jury's verdict, sending her back to prison. If the high court chooses to let the manslaughter conviction stand, it should at least send the case to another judge for resentencing, prosecutors have said.
A manslaughter conviction can result in a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors also say Woodward brought the second-degree murder conviction upon herself by asking that the jury not be allowed to consider manslaughter as a possible verdict.
The defense says that whatever happens, she should not end up back behind bars.
Correspondent Brian Jenkins contributed to this report.