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Au pair's case goes to jury

Published Oct. 2, 2005

A jury began deliberating Tuesday whether a 19-year-old English au pair murdered a baby by shaking him and slamming his head.

In closing arguments, prosecutors portrayed Louise Woodward as a "little aspiring actress" who lied about hurting 8-month-old Matthew Eappen, while Woodward's attorneys argued that prosecutors had failed even remotely to prove that she killed the little boy.

"She's going to go home. She's going to go back to school. And if you do your job, someday she'll get married and she'll be somebody's mother," defense attorney Andrew Good said. "And she'll be a wonderful mother."

Prosecutors said Woodward killed the baby out of frustration with his fussing and the demands of her job, which interfered with her social life. According to testimony, she had clashed with the baby's parents about curfews and leaving him unattended.

Woodward denied on the stand that she ever hurt Matthew, and her attorneys argued that his injuries may have been weeks old.

At Woodward's request, the jury of nine women and three men was told to consider only a first- or second-degree murder charge and not manslaughter. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence; second-degree means a sentence of at least 15 years.

The jury deliberated for about five hours Tuesday without reaching a verdict. They were to resume this morning.

The case, which is being covered live on Court TV, has spotlighted the difficulties in finding reliable child care. It has exposed class fault lines as well.

On talk radio and in letters and phone calls, people have criticized the baby's parents, Sunil and Deborah Eappen _ both doctors, living in the well-to-do Boston suburb of Newton _ for entrusting their two young boys to a low-paid teenager with little child-care training.