ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – A Douglas County District Court judge says she needs more time to decide whether a man convicted in 2006 of killing his infant daughter should be released while he waits for his new trial.
The Innocence Project of Minnesota has been working to exonerate Michael Hanson, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2004 death of his 3-month-old daughter, Avryonna Hansen. Two medical examiners originally found the baby suffered a skull fracture before she died. Her death was ruled a homicide.
Hansen contacted the Innocence Project two years ago, asking for legal help. The non-profit organization agreed to take Hansen’s case and he was granted a new trial earlier this month. Innocence Project attorney Julie Jonas said Hanson’s conviction has harmed his family.
“Of course, his two other daughters think he’s been in prison for the last six years for murdering their sister,” Jonas said. “And it’s ripped the family apart.”
Innocence Project attorneys don’t dispute the baby’s skull was fractured, but say the injury occurred six days before her death when she was with her mother in a Walmart parking lot. The baby flipped out of a shopping cart while still in her car seat and landed on the pavement, they said.
Jonas said three medical examiners and two physicians reviewed the case and found the skull fracture was healing at the time Avryonna died and that there were no signs of brain trauma. None of the medical examiners who reviewed the case believed the death was a homicide.
“Frankly, we were able to prove in a series of hearings that the medical examiner that called this a homicide was simply wrong,” Jonas said. The Innocence Project said Avryonna likely died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Judge Ann Carrott declined to set bail for Hansen at a hearing Wednesday afternoon, saying she needed more time to review the case.
Minnesota Public Radio News says a new hearing could be scheduled as early as next week.
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