Appeals court throws out life term in 2004 newborn’s death
WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) — An appeals court has thrown out the life-without-parole sentence imposed on a western Pennsylvania woman in the murder of her newborn baby 17 years ago.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that now-44-year-old Jessica Rizor’s attorney erred in not advising her to take a plea deal that would have allowed her to get out of prison in as little as 5½ years, PennLive.com reported.
Rizor was convicted in a Washington County trial of first-degree murder, concealing the death of a child and abuse of a corpse.
Authorities said Rizor gave birth in November 2004 in the bathroom of the home she shared with her mother and then-husband. Prosecutors alleged that her husband found the baby in the garbage after Rizor told him to take out a trash bag, which she said was full of Thanksgiving leftovers.
Rizor told investigators that she didn’t know she was pregnant and believed the child was stillborn. She was charged with murder after an autopsy concluded that the baby was born alive but suffocated in the trash bag.
Rizor’s attorneys argued that she had mental problems. The plea agreement she turned down called for her to plead guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder in exchange for a prison sentence of 5½ to 30 years.
Following the Superior Court’s decision, Rizor can opt for a new trial or try to negotiate another plea agreement that might result in prompt release from prison.