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Higher Justice Sought In Au Pair Conviction

Wed., Nov. 26, 1997, midnight

Prosecutors asked the state’s highest court Tuesday to send Louise Woodward back to prison, arguing that a judge usurped the jury’s role when he reduced the English au pair’s second-degree murder conviction to manslaughter.

“There is no need for a jury system if the verdict of 12 unanimous citizens may be overturned by a judge who found different facts than those necessarily found by the jury,” the prosecutors said.

Woodward, 19, had faced a mandatory life sentence with no parole for 15 years, but Judge Hiller Zobel reduced her conviction and decided that the 279 days she had spent in jail was punishment enough.

Zobel “in effect, treated the defendant as if she had been acquitted” in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen, prosecutors said in their appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court.

They said Woodward’s second-degree murder conviction reinstated. The high court also could order a new trial.

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