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Appeals court OKs new trial for mom in baby’s 2001 death

April 10, 2021 GMT

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — A Battle Creek woman convicted of her daughter’s death nearly 20 years ago has presented enough new evidence to get a second trial, the Michigan Court of Appeals said.

The court on Thursday affirmed a decision by a judge who said Tonia Miller’s second-degree murder conviction should be set aside.

Defense experts believe Miller’s 11-week-old daughter died in 2001 from pneumonia, not head trauma referred to as shaken baby syndrome. Miller, 37, has been in prison since 2003 and is eligible for parole in 2023.

The Calhoun County prosecutor’s office has argued that the experts’ testimony is merely a different opinion, not a “sea change” in understanding head trauma.

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Miller said she shook Alicia Duff when the baby gasped for air and stopped breathing while being fed from a bottle. She denied shaking her violently or with an intent to hurt the child.

“The trial court did not abuse its discretion by determining that newly discovered evidence merits a new trial in this case,” the appeals court said.

Miller is represented by the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school.