ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — A Twin Cities man says he wants to return to his family, job, and a normal life after he was exonerated of murdering his infant daughter, a conviction that sent him to prison for six years.

Douglas County prosecutors dropped charges Friday against Michael Hansen, 34, who served six years of a 14-year sentence for second-degree murder in the death of his 3-month-old daughter, Avryonna. The baby died in 2004.

“I am just a normal guy, a 9 to 5 guy, get back to my family and take care of my kids,” said Hansen. “I miss them a lot.”

Hansen had been released from prison in August and was preparing for a new trial when a judge overturned his conviction based on evidence presented by the Innocence Project of Minnesota, which argued independent medical experts found that the baby likely died of accidental suffocation while she slept.

The Innocence Project agreed to look into Hansen’s case after his original appeal was denied, and he sent the organization a letter asking for help. The group asked five doctors to review the autopsy report, including two medical examiners, an emergency medicine physician, a forensic pathologist and an expert in child abuse.

In a statement Friday, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office said it “no longer believes that it can prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” The new trial had been scheduled to begin Sept. 26.

Bridget Sabo of the Innocence Project said independent medical experts found that the baby likely died of accidental suffocation while she slept on her stomach on a futon with blankets and pillows near her father and 3-year-old sister. Seven years later, Sabo said parents are now routinely told to put infants to sleep on their backs without blankets or pillows, as part of a public health campaign to reduce sudden infant deaths.

“He had stalwartly and constantly maintained his innocence to ever hurting his infant daughter,” Sabo said. “What it came down to largely was the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy in the case.”

At the original trial, Ramsey County Medical Examiner Michael McGee called the death a homicide, pointing to a skull fracture before Avryonna died. But Sabo and her team of attorneys said the fracture was likely caused by a fall from a shopping cart at an Alexandria Wal-Mart six days before the death, and medical experts enlisted by the Innocence Project concluded that the fracture was healing.

“Sudden infant death is a very reasonable explanation medical explanation for how she died,” Sabo said.

Attorney Paul Applebaum says compelling evidence was overlooked in the first trial, and he believes the science was not sound.

“Avryonna fell out of the cart in her car seat and our theory and our belief is she struck her head, sustained fracture in that event, not at the time Mike was watching Avryonna,” said Applebaum.

Hansen says it’s been difficult to adjust to life outside of prison, and now he plans to return to his former job as a tool and dye maker and spend time with his two older daughters.

“I don’t ever get that time back, that’s six years lost with my children, six years being blamed for something I didn’t do, I did everything I could to make sure I wasn’t angry,” said Hansen. “I am glad people have finally seen this for what it is. I just want to go on with my life. No amount of money could make up for the six years I sat in prison as an innocent man.”

Earlier this month, Ramsey County officials said they would review the work of medical examiner, Dr. Michael McGee, who initially called the infant death a homicide. He could not be reached for comment at the time of this article, and has not commented publicly on the case.

Hansen’s attorneys say it’s too early to think about a possible settlement at this time.

The Innocence Project said this is their third exoneration in the state of Minnesota since 2007. The public can meet Hansen or hear more about his story at their annual benefit in October.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (33)
  1. Mike says:

    Medical examiner, Dr. Michael McGee or maniacal hack with an agenda?
    Stories like this make me sick to the stomach. Why do we leave such incredibly serious decisions in the hands of one person to determine cause when their are obviously many variables that are involved in a babies death?
    I hope to God I am never involved or in need of Michael McGee’s medical opinion, particularity considering his miscalculation on this case.

    1. That's Life says:

      mistakes happen. live with it.

      1. Common sense says:

        It looks like the defendant did for 6 years.

      2. wow says:

        wow what a mistake i bet you would not have the same tude if it was you

  2. Hmm says:

    So 1 expert goes 1 way, and the other the other way, the fact is we’ll never know for sure, how convenient the child fell from a cart prior to the incident.

    1. Really says:

      Actually it was 1 expert vs. 5 experts. The fact is the investigation was poorly done.

      Convenient…no. Unfortunate, but it does happen. Additionally, it was determined the injury was already healing up. Which means it could not have happened like the medical examiner stated.

      1. Hmm says:

        “The fracture was likely caused by a fall from a cart at Walmart, and it was believed to be healing” Likely and believed those don’t sound like definite terms, during the 1st trial was the innocence project there Im guessing no, did the child go to the doctor after the fall at Walmart? Wow no facts are available to this article, regardless I hope he doesn’t have any more children because he isn’t safe enough to care for them, who sleeps on a futon with an infant, negligence at the minimum.

        1. Save your cynicism says:

          It says the baby was sleeping on the futon. It didn’t say that he was sleeping. Parents do that all the time (for someone was paying so much attention to the specifics of words used, you certainly missed a big detail). He was probably watching TV or playing with his 3 year old daughter that was there, and since the baby was sleeping, it would have been very difficult to notice if she had stopped breathing. It just so happens that the recommendation of putting babies on their backs when they sleep was not as well known as it is today. It is tragic that the child died, but the fact of the matter is, it was just a sad unfortunate accident. You can call the fall from the cart without a doctor visit to follow up convenient, but in reality, children have accidents all the time, and most don’t accidents don’t result in visits to a doctor. In the first trial, they did not prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and that is where the the justice system failed, because it convincted him anyway. The charges were dropped now for a reason… someone finally fought for him long enough for someone to listen to the facts that are available. Based on those facts, it was determined that he should not have been convitcted, nor would they be able to get him convitcted again. Not only did this poor man lose his baby, but he was put away for 6 years, losing that precious time with his other children, causing those kids unneccessary struggles in their lives. He and his family have suffered enough, so please spare them your cynicism.

  3. Sorry up North says:

    Glad you are out Michael. There are not enough apologies in the world to make up for 6 years lost. Pay no attention to knuckle draggers in here. Or the knuckleheads.

    1. It's obvious says:

      Funny thing, now, but we can’t go back in time, can we.

  4. Eric says:

    Thats the thing about facts and the truth.

    Facts can be rearranged.

    So it comes down to which side can arrange the facts better.

    1. The Crux of the Buscuit says:

      Yuor presumption of guilt is astounding. Truth isn’t what you appear to be after. Dope.

  5. Citizen says:

    There have been plenty of people blamed for killing a child that died from sudden infant death, and plenty of parents accused of abuse when the child had a disease that made the bones break etc. Mistakes happen. At least this man now gets his life back. If he were in Texas, Rick Perry and his cronies would have probably tried to put him on death row. Have a good life, Michael.

  6. Sarah says:

    I find it perplexing that the father’s comments are related to his innocence and the 6 years of his life he lost. His daughter is still dead. Wouldn’t the sadness and grief that come with the loss of a child be the first thing to comment on?

    1. Keep Judging says:

      I’m sure his sadness is what he focused on first, that was current situation at the time. His present (current) situation is that he was exonerated. That’s what he is focusing on. His focus is on his present family and taking care of them. Sarah, you may dwell on the past, but rational people move on and take care of their family in the present. Keep judging, your obvious an expert at analyzing others relationships and behaviors.

      1. Joe says:

        Were you there when his comments were made? No. Maybe he did comment first on his grief and the clip doesn’t show that. ANY sound clip, sound bite, video clip, recording CAN present comments and remarks out of time sequence, or out of context. You have to read ANY media story with a critical eye, with critical thinking, and the understanding that if you were not there, you don’t know all of the story.

  7. dmc says:

    Good thing he didn’t live in Texas Gov Perry would have had him killed.

  8. oldglory says:

    Go figure. We depend on Government authorities to know what they are doing, always. Truth is the Government (meaning County Examiner plus the rest of the County Social Ser. and County Att,s) cares little about the real facts. In my experience, I have found Government to always have their own agenda PLUS blinders on for every case they look at. Like this one, what else could of happened is not their job??. They want to continue the fallacy that those involved are JUST looking out for the welfare of the child. BS. Those involved to put him behind bars, have done poor work. They should lose their jobs for being so arrogant, wrong and self serving. Any other business would fire every one involved on this case. They should be put behind bars for six years and see how they fair! Have a wonderful life Mike! And your daughter’s name was beautiful.

    1. Phid says:

      While I agree that this was a tragedy to put an innocent man in jail, I would hardly say that the government cares little about facts or has its own agenda in every case. Why do you not blame the jury that believed the prosecutor? Why do you not blame the defense attorney who was not able to successfully counter the prosecution?

      Seems like there could be a number of things to blame that resulted in this man going to prison.

      1. Been there and done that says:

        Simply this; the jury only gets to see at trial the evidence presented. Not all evidence that should be seen due to procedure manipulation gets presented. The Co. Attorney has a cadre of law enforcement and other Government agencies at their disposal to collect as much evidence as possible. They then exclude evidence from discovery that would go contrary to their narrative of events that would ensure the greatest chance of conviction to the charges filed. Remember the County Attorney keeps his job by getting convictions. So the jury is really not to blame and of course factor in the intelligence of the jury. The defendant only has the resources that he can afford usually one attorney if any private attorney at all and that attorney may have several cases he is handling at one time. He may not have the ability to assemble his own expert witnesses to counter the Co. Attorney because of the ability of the defendant to pay for it or inexperience. So in truth when the Gov’t. workers involved have career and money on the line .i.e. job retention promotion and compensation. The last thing they really care about it the truth.

        1. oldglory says:

          Thank You! That is exactly what I meant!

    2. John Munz says:

      I do agree, when the federal department of health and human servies will pay county social workers and their “Experts” a $10,000.00 per child bonus for each child the system removes from a family and then adopted the child out without any concern that the law was followed and the consitiution respected has lead to a muilti billion dollar fraud that you don’t hear any polictical talking about.

      Then allow childern trapped in a truely violent family remain until maimed costing the tax payer $169,000.00 a month in medical needs foster care, again paid by the U.S. Deptpaertment of Health and Human Services.

      As a parent I was stripped of my parental rights on the wish of a severly mental ill wife and I was deamed self cener and selfish for serving ing the Minnesota Army National Guard, placing my needs before my daughters since the guard was preparing to send me to nursing school and flanting the authority of the Ramsey County Social Services (what the social worker meant was since i lacked the maturality to surrender my rights on his command, I failed to find the courage to comitt suicide, “Since my suiciide was to be the only thing of value I could ever give my two daughters”.

      Meanwhile at the trail all the paid experts (paid by the meaning of elligibility for the Human Services bonus money once my daughters, who where eventually adopted to a police officer’s family) claimed they would rather error on the side of safety and break the law than allow any father a right to prove them wrong and be a good parent.

      As a nurse I had provided care to a little boy returned 8 times to a mother who would beat him so badly that on a paper tin layer of brain cells would remain and be the only thing that kept him a live and earn the medical needs foster home the ammount of money previously stated.

      2000 I was out in Eastern Idaho on a contract fire crew activated for severity working on numerous different fires over a 65 day period when I was approached by a gentalman who identified himself as a partof an investigation team that had arrested my former social for falsifing docuements and distorying evidence in order to be able to manipulae the federal bonus program. I have never had anyone from Ramsey County give any statement either for or against this rumour. However since I have had my roommate during my second tour to Iraq, who was in his final quarters of a para-legal degree and had to study this very same case.

      In 2010 I discovered not only did I have a national guard buddy, who owns his own roofing company had hired the former social worker who oved from the cities to start a new life after being releast from prison, I had been told that additional money I had recieved from the IRS in 2008 was in fact my child tax credits being repaid for the tax years from 1985-2001. I am glad Mike has been give his due.

      There are so many of us that haven’t, since it is suppose to be career suicide for any lawyer in Minnesota to represent a non-custodial parent. The state has to do better than this. We have a very big problem that has cost not only the tax payer billions o dollars, but has been costly for the lives it directly harms.

      Now that my daughters are adults i pray for nothing more than to take them to a movie, their favorite resturant, or even bowling or even camping. But I allowed none of that.

  9. Keeping it real in Minnesota says:


  10. Keeping it real in Pequot Lakes says:


  11. besty says:

    I live in Alex and remember this happeining, at the time I thought there was something not right about all of this. Glad things turned out as they did and you can hopefully get somewhat of a normal life back. What ever that may be,. Sorry for the loss of your little girl, God speed and blessing to you.

  12. Amos says:

    What a great project

  13. Keeping it real in Minnesota says:

    Sad ordeal

  14. Tom Watters says:

    Dude certainly deserves a normal life.

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