December 01, 2013

Morgan Lewis & Bockius Secures Retrial Without the Threat of Death Penalty for Cathy Henderson

On September 9, 2013, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius won a victory for their client Cathy Henderson. After the law firm obtained a new trial for Ms. Henderson, Travis County prosecutors announced that they would no longer seek the death penalty. In 1995, Ms. Henderson was convicted of capital murder for the death of an infant in her care. Ms. Henderson claimed that she accidentally dropped the child, but the State argued that the injuries could only have been intentional. The State’s theory heavily relied on Chief Medical Officer Roberto Bayardo’s testimony that the child would have had to fall from “higher than a two-story building” to have received his injuries simply from falling.

Morgan Lewis volunteered to take the case in 2005 after Ms. Henderson had nearly exhausted her appeals. The legal team began a complete reinvestigation of Ms. Henderson’s case, focusing on the scientific evidence used to convict her, after recent scientific advances changed the medical community’s understanding of pediatric head trauma. After the Morgan Lewis team provided Dr. Bayardo with information about the new scientific developments, he recanted his original testimony, stating that “based on the physical evidence in the case, I cannot determine with a reasonable degree of medical certainty whether [the infant’s] injuries resulted from an intentional act or accidental fall.” At an evidentiary hearing, Morgan Lewis presented four new witnesses, including experts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to demonstrate that the infant could have sustained his injuries from an accidental fall.

The district court concluded that Ms. Henderson proved “by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted her of capital murder.” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed that decision and remanded for a new trial.