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Au pair "okay' in prison awaiting judge's decision

The British au pair convicted of killing a baby in her care is bearing up under the pressure of waiting for a judge to decide whether to overturn a jury's second-degree murder verdict.

Asked how her 19-year-old daughter was coping in Massachusetts' only prison for women, Susan Woodward said: "She's okay. You know she's still shocked by the whole thing.

"We really thought that now she'd be at home. . . . But she's okay. She's doing all right," Mrs. Woodward said Wednesday on Boston's WHDH-TV.

Her daughter, Louise Woodward, was convicted of second-degree murder last week in the February death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen.

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Hiller Zobel is expected to rule, possibly as early as Monday, on whether the jury's verdict should stand, or be set aside with a new trial ordered, or whether the charges should be reduced.

Woodward was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison and will be eligible for parole in 15 years. If the charge is reduced to manslaughter, Woodward faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, with no mandatory minimum.

"We have to keep comforting her and telling her it will be fine. It will all work out," Mrs. Woodward said.

Her husband, Gary, said: "It's a rough time for all of us and our friends. We're in a vacuum really until Monday."

Zobel will post his ruling on the Internet. Court officials said Zobel, fearing a media crush at the courthouse, thought electronic distribution would solve the problem.

Meanwhile, the father of the baby, Sunil Eappen, lashed out at conservative forces that have criticized him and his wife for choosing a young, inexperienced woman to care for their child.

"I think it's ludicrous," Eappen said on CNN's Larry King Live Wednesday. "To me, it's like blaming the rape victim for being raped. (You) should be able to expect that someone is not going to kill your child."

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