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Au pair's lawyers concede "mistake'

With protesters outside holding up signs such as "IQ Tests for Jurors," Louise Woodward's lawyers conceded Tuesday that their all-or-nothing strategy "can be seen as a mistake" and asked a judge to reduce the au pair's murder conviction to manslaughter.

Millions watched on television as the defense focused on getting the verdict down to the very charge her lawyers fought to keep the jury from even considering.

Woodward watched the hearing from her prison cell. Her parents and Deborah Eappen, the mother of 8-month-old Matthew, sat at opposite ends of the front row in the courtroom.

Inside, Woodward's supporters wore yellow ribbons, while friends of the Eappens wore lapel pins of a caterpillar, Matthew's favorite toy.

Superior Court Judge Hiller Zobel said he could rule as early as today. He said he will issue the decision on the Internet.

During the hearing, defense attorney Harvey Silverglate said the strategy to let the jury consider only first- or second-degree murder "can be seen as a mistake."

In hindsight, he said, "by any definition, the evidence in this case could fit into manslaughter."

But prosecutors said Woodward is shopping around for a better deal and should not be allowed a reduced charge unless she admits what she did.

"The defense theory, if it worked, would have been brilliant," said prosecutor Martha Coakley. "You cannot come back and say, "The devil made me do it.' "

A jury found Woodward, 19, guilty of second-degree murder Thursday, determining she fatally shook and slammed Matthew on Feb. 4. He died five days later.

The judge can declare her innocent; overturn the verdict and order a new trial; reduce the conviction; or uphold the verdict.

Manslaughter, defined as causing a death by a reckless action that showed disregard for life, is punishable by up to 20 years, but there is no minimum sentence; Woodward could be released from prison immediately.

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