POSSIBLE INNOCENCE: Science Helps Texas Death Row Inmate Win New Trial

On December 5, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted (5-3) Cathy Lynn Henderson a new trial based on recent scientific developments about the death of a baby who had been in her care. At one point, Henderson had been two days from execution. The appeals court accepted the factual findings of a district judge who ruled earlier this year that no reasonable juror would have convicted Henderson if presented with new scientific discoveries related to the death of Brandon Baugh. The appeals court stopped short of finding actual innocence, but granted Henderson a new trial. The prosecution’s star trial-witness, former medical examiner Roberto Bayardo, changed his initial diagnosis, explaining that advancements in the understanding of pediatric head injuries now indicate that relatively short falls onto a hard surface could produce injuries similar to those he discovered during the baby’s 1994 autopsy. Henderson had claimed the baby died after slipping from her arms and falling onto a concrete floor.

(C. Lindell, “Henderson granted new trial in baby’s 1994 death,” Austin American-Statesman, December 5, 2012). See Innocence and Arbitrariness.