A STORY WITH A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING...
POSSIBLE MURDER, POSSIBLE PREGENCY, DEFINITE RETARDATION (ON MANY LEVELS) NY Times reg. req.
Court Dismisses Guilty Plea in Baby's Death
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Aug. 11 (AP) — A state appeals court has thrown out the guilty plea of a retarded man in the death of a newborn who may never have existed.
In a ruling from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday, three of the five judges said "a manifest injustice" had occurred in the case.
The man, Medell Banks, with his estranged wife, Victoria Banks, and her sister, Dianne Tucker, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Victoria Banks's baby.
A fertility expert later testified that it was impossible for Victoria Banks to have been pregnant because of surgery she had to prevent conception. Defense lawyers contended that the three are mentally retarded and pleaded guilty out of fear they could face the death penalty.
In its opinion, the appeals court also expressed concern over the three-day interrogation of Mr. Banks without a lawyer for him present.
Ms. Tucker was released from prison on July 17 after serving one year of a 15-year sentence, which was changed partly because of the new medical evidence. Mr. Banks refused the same deal and continued to press his appeal to withdraw his guilty plea, seeking vindication.
"The court ruling was an answer to so many prayers," said his lawyer, Rick Hutchinson.
Victoria Banks had told the police she was pregnant in 1999 so she could get out of jail while awaiting trial in a separate case. A doctor confirmed her pregnancy. Later, when no baby was seen, the Bankses and Ms. Tucker were arrested on suspicion of capital murder and all agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter for a reduced sentence.
After Mr. Banks's plea, a fertility expert examined Victoria Banks and said that she could not have been pregnant because of a tubal ligation she had in 1995.
Prosecutors said Victoria Banks could have become pregnant despite the procedure. District Attorney Robert Keahey, who has also disputed assertions that the three are mentally retarded, said he would appeal the ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court and that Mr. Banks would remain behind bars.