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Australian mother Kathleen Folbigg pardoned due to new evidence

An Australian woman who spent two decades in prison after being found guilty of murdering her four children has been pardoned and released from prison Monday after an inquest found there was ‘reasonable doubt’ over whether she was responsible for the children’s deaths.

Kathleen Folbigg has maintained her innocence since being accused of killing the children, who all died in infancy between the late 1980s and late 1990s.

Her trial in 2003 focused on her diary entries, in which Folbigg – now in her 50s – wrote that she had “failed as a mother, wife”. Prosecutors argued that the death of four young children in a row could not be a tragic coincidence and it was excoriated in the media. A jury found her guilty of suffocating the children to death and she was given an initial sentence of 40 years in prison which was reduced to three decades on appeal.

In recent years, doubts have been raised about belief as new sciences have emerged.

New South Wales Attorney General Michael Daley told a press conference that he had recommended that the state governor pardon Folbigg and that she would be released immediately. He was informed last week that the investigation report into his conviction was being finalized.

An Australian mum has been found guilty of killing her 4 babies. Scientists say she is innocent.

Daley said he received a memo on Friday from Thomas Bathurst, a former senior judge who led the investigation, saying there was “reasonable doubt” in each of the alleged offences.

In 2021, dozens of scientists – including two Nobel laureates – signed a petition urging the Governor of New South Wales to pardon Folbigg, arguing that she was “wrongly incarcerated” and that genetics could have caused the deaths. Geneticists have found rare mutations in the DNA of Folbigg and his daughters that can cause sudden death in infancy and childhood, and other variants found in the DNA of his sons have also been linked to deaths in young children.

That petition was one of a handful of others that spurred the investigation, which Daley said should be completed in the coming weeks.

“The difference between today and what has happened in the past is that new evidence has come to light,” said centre-left Labor Party member Daley, adding that it was “appropriate that we have mechanisms to reconsider these types of questions in the light of new evidence.

“I am relieved that an unconditional pardon has been granted to Kathleen Folbigg and that science has been heard,” said Chennupati Jagadish, president of the Australian Academy of Sciences, who advised Bathurst’s inquiry. The academy added in a statement that it wants to work with Daley’s office to “implement a more science-responsive legal system so that a miscarriage of justice of this magnitude never happens again.”

Although the pardon means Folbigg will not have to serve the remainder of her sentence, it does not absolve her of criminal convictions. A criminal appeals court should overturn those convictions, Daley said, adding that a successful appeal would clear the way for Folbigg to file a civil lawsuit against the state for compensation.

Representatives for Folbigg did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding his intention to file charges against the government for his two decades of detention.

Justice for Kathleen Folbigg, a group led by a close friend of hers, said in a statement that “the fight for justice continues, but we are thrilled that she has finally regained her freedom.” Folbigg was released from Clarence Correctional Centre, about a six-hour drive from Sydney, around 11 a.m. local time, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Asked about his response to people who may not believe Folbigg’s innocence, Daley said: ‘We have four little bubbas who are dead. We have a husband and wife who got lost, a wife who spent 20 years in prison, and a family who never had a chance.

“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel anything about it,” he said.

Brittany Shammas contributed to this report.


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