[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----ARIZONA
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sat Aug 13 21:49:24 CDT 2011
Peoria woman who faced death penalty sues after case thrown out
A Peoria woman who once faced the death penalty is suing authorities who had
accused her of murdering a 4-month-old boy.
After years of fighting for her innocence, a Maricopa County Superior Court
judge last year dismissed the murder case against Lisa Randall after an expert
debunked the county medical examiner's findings.
Police, prosecutors and medical examiners had said the baby died after
suffering blunt-force trauma to the head and that Randall was responsible.
Randall, 50, was babysitting Dillon Uutela in April 2007 when she said she
found the baby pale and unresponsive on her living room floor. Randall said she
had placed Dillon on a blanket as she tended to other children at her home
day-care. Now, Randall is suing Peoria, Maricopa County, the County Attorney's
Office, former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, a deputy county attorney, a
county medical examiner and a Peoria police detective who investigated Dillon's
death for compensatory damages and attorneys' fees.
The Peoria mother of 5, whose daughter and ex-husband are plaintiffs in the
suit, sought $12.6 million in a January notice of claim, which is a precursor
to a lawsuit.
Peoria and the county would not comment on the suit Wednesday. Thomas did not
return messages. An attorney representing Randall also did not return calls.
Police reports and court records show Randall has maintained her innocence
since her first conversation with a Peoria police detective four years ago. She
had questioned whether Dillon's high fever in the days before his death, or
perhaps a recent shot, might have made him ill.
"I knew I could stand before God, and I know I didn't do anything wrong,"
Randall previously told The Republic.
But officials were troubled by what they believed to be evidence of abuse,
specifically a fatal blow. Eight months after Dillon's death, a grand jury
indicted Randall, and police arrested her. Prosecutors sought the death
For 2 years, Randall's future seemed grim.
She spent more than 6 months in jail.
Her attorney sought medical experts who said Dillon's illness might have caused
the injuries noted by county medical examiners. The experts said a crack in
Dillon's skull mentioned in the autopsy report was natural for an infant and
that brain swelling could have caused skull fractures and bleeding.
"I can see this as a not-guilty verdict at trial," Superior Court Judge Gary
Donahoe said in 2008 after hearing 2 days of testimony from detectives and
doctors. "And even if they find her guilty, I'm not sure I've got substantial
evidence that this is a death-penalty case."
The questions would continue. The case was briefly dismissed in 2008 before the
County Attorney's Office again filed charges.
Donahoe ruled there wasn't enough evidence to keep Randall in jail, and she was
released with electronic monitoring.
2 years later, then-County Attorney Thomas resigned to run for attorney general
and Rick Romley took over as the county's interim top prosecutor. Romley asked
for a review of death-penalty cases.
A deputy county attorney soon filed a motion to withdraw a recommendation that
Randall face the death penalty.
Then new information from an expert that prosecutors had consulted would change
"I cannot support the cause of death as being blunt-force trauma of the head
and neck," an Oregon medical examiner wrote in a June 2010 letter to
prosecutors. "Not only is the conclusion unsupported, but I feel most of the
observations leading to that conclusion are in error."
A prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the case after a panel of county
attorneys voted 8-0 that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction.
Weeks later, Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp made a rare decision. He ruled
the case against Randall be permanently tossed.
"The interests of justice will be served by a dismissal with prejudice," Kemp
But Randall was left with a significant burden.
Her legal bills totaled nearly $220,000, and she had lost her husband and her
home, according to a January notice of claim.
"It devastated my entire family," Randall said.
"I've always believed in the system, always had people in my life who were in
law enforcement. They didn't want the truth. They wanted a win," she said.
"When this is all over I'm taking my family and leaving. This is not my home
(source: Arizona Republic)
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