Columbus, Ohio — A woman who was jailed without parole for killing her daughter by throwing the child in the trash after giving birth in her college sorority house should be sentenced, a split Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.
The judges also ordered another judge to deal with the re-sentencing of Emilie Weaver, now 27. She was convicted of aggravated murder and several other counts stemming from the child’s death in April 2015. Weaver could have been sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. in as little as 20 years, which was requested by his attorney, but Judge Mark Fleegle said he was not convinced Weaver was remorseful.
Weaver sought relief after her 2017 conviction, arguing that her attorney failed to present a full explanation for the neonaticide and that she could have received a lesser sentence. Neonaticide is the killing of an infant within 24 hours of birth.
Fleegle, who also handled the post-conviction relief hearing, discredited an expert witness who tried to explain Weaver’s condition. An appeals court upheld the conviction, but in its 4-3 decision announced Thursday, the state Supreme Court found Weaver had ineffective counsel during his sentencing.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor noted in the majority opinion that Fleegle demonstrated an arbitrary and unreasonable attitude towards evidence of neonaticide as well as “pregnancy denial syndrome”, where a person denies their pregnancy.
Prosecutors said Weaver gave birth in a bathroom at Muskingum University’s Delta Gamma Theta sorority and then deliberately caused her baby’s death. They said the little girl died of asphyxiation after Weaver put her in a plastic trash bag and left her outside the sorority house.
Weaver testified at trial that she denied the pregnancy and thought the baby was already dead when she put the newborn in the trash bag.
Public defenders representing Weaver did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment on the decision.