In a case that riveted audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, a 19-year-old British au pair was convicted of murder Thursday for shaking a baby in her care.
It took jurors three days to convict Louise Woodward of second-degree murder in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen. The child died Feb. 9, five days after Woodward called 911 to say he was unconscious.
Woodward broke down as one of her lawyers, Andrew Good, embraced her.
"I didn't do anything," Woodward said through loud sobs. "Why did they do that to me?"
Her parents sat stone-faced after the verdict was read.
The conviction carries a sentence of life in prison with a chance of parole in 15 years. Middlesex Superior Judge Hiller B. Zobel set sentencing for this morning.
The defense said the verdict would be appealed.
"The only 12 people who believe Louise Woodward is guilty are the 12 people on the jury," said defense attorney Good. "I'm at a loss to understand how anyone in their right mind could come to this verdict."
Good added: "Her parents are devastated, like we all are."
Matthew's parents, Sunil and Deborah Eappen, both physicians, were not in the courtroom. They did not immediately return a phone call to their home.
Prosecutor Gerard Leone Jr. said the Eappens watched the verdict on television. "They're obviously satisfied that the person responsible for killing Matty was found responsible," he said.
The three-week trial captivated audiences in the United States and in Britain, where trials are not televised and viewers were transfixed by the gavel-to-gavel television coverage afforded the case.
Prosecutors contended Woodward shook Matthew and slammed his head against a hard surface out of frustration with the fussy infant and a job that hampered her social life.
The Eappens said Woodward had chafed at their efforts to get her to curb her late hours.
"This case wasn't really a close call before it got into the courtroom," said prosecutor Martha Coakley after the verdict. "The jury was able to see through the medical evidence that this child had been harmed."
A second-degree murder conviction requires a jury to decide that the defendant intentionally killed another person with malice.
Police officers testified that Woodward told them she had been "a little rough" with the child, a statement she has denied making.
Woodward, who took the stand on her own behalf, was unflappable as she denied doing anything to harm the child. Medical experts called by her lawyers testified that there were no external signs of trauma; they said the baby had a previously undetected head injury that could have been reopened by minor jarring.
Bolstered by what they considered to be a strong case, defense attorneys adopted an "all or nothing" strategy and asked the judge to bar the jury from considering a reduced charge of manslaughter.
Over prosecutors' objections, Zobel agreed and gave jurors only three options: convict Woodward of either first- or second-degree murder, or acquit her.
Woodward, from the small farming town of Elton, England, was 18 when the baby died. The murder charge was seen by many in her homeland as part of a rush to judgment against her.
"She's incapable of an act of cruelty like that," Hazel Mayamba-Kasongo of Elton told CNN. "This is unacceptable."
In the United States, the case has raised questions about parents' responsibility in finding reliable child care.
Some working parents saw Woodward as their worst nightmare. Others criticized the Eappens, especially the mother, for working instead of caring full-time for their two young boys and for hiring a teenager with little formal training.