A judge dismissed a murder charge against a west Alabama woman Thursday because evidence showed the original autopsy was botched and wrongly concluded her newborn baby was suffocated.
Circuit Judge James Moore threw out the case against Bridget Lee, a 34-year-old church pianist who spent nine months in jail after being charged with the child's death in 2006. Later reviews found the baby was stillborn, not intentionally killed.
Lee hugged her attorney and cried after the ruling.
"It's a great day. I'm going to go home and have lunch with my family and just be free," she said.
Lee admitted that she had an affair and became pregnant while married with two children. When the baby arrived stillborn, she did not seek medical help but instead panicked. She placed the newborn in a plastic container and left it for several days in the back of her sport utility vehicle.
Prosecutors initially filed the capital murder charge after the first autopsy by an Alabama medical examiner, Dr. Corinne Stern. Stern has since left Alabama and now works as the chief medical examiner in Laredo, Texas.
"I just hope no one is on death row because of an autopsy she did," Lee said.
Lee feared being convicted and executed based on the capital charge, but prosecutors said they didn't intend to seek the death penalty. Still, a conviction could have meant a sentence of life without parole.
Police found out about the baby when a couple who had been lined up to adopt the child called authorities. Lee told police what happened, but Stern's autopsy concluded the baby was suffocated and Lee was charged.
Stern was not at the hearing and has not returned telephone calls or an e-mail from The Associated Press.
At the urging of Lee's defense, other state medical experts reviewed the case. Evidence during the hearing showed that six different forensics experts disagreed with Stern's conclusion. They said the baby died of pneumonia and was stillborn.