In a two-week hearing at the Los Angeles Superior Court, Hueston Hennigan provided new evidence that led to the release of a woman who had been wrongfully convicted of causing the death of her grandson.
In 2006, María Méndez, a 53-year-old mother of 10, was babysitting her infant grandson Emmanuel when he suddenly collapsed and died. Based primarily on one physician’s testimony that the child showed signs of abuse and of “shaken baby syndrome,” Ms. Méndez was convicted of assault causing a child’s death and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison.
After losing her direct appeal, Ms. Méndez filed a habeas petition with the help of Project for the Innocent at Loyola Law School, which partnered with Hueston Hennigan. Upon careful review of the court and medical records, we found that not only had evidence been suppressed, but that the prosecution’s theory was medically and scientifically flawed. “It is my steadfast belief that María Méndez … was wrongfully convicted,” wrote Dr. Frank Sheridan, San Bernardino County’s chief medical examiner.
Brian Hennigan led the team at the two-week hearing at the Los Angeles Superior Court, delivering the opening statement and examining witnesses in the courtroom while also negotiating with the L.A. District Attorney’s Office for Ms. Méndez’s immediate release.
After one week of evidence, the prosecution approached the defense team with a deal that would result in Ms. Méndez’s release from prison. Ms. Mendez accepted, and on June 27, 2018, the court ordered Ms. Mendez’s immediate release after 11 years served. “I feel so happy to be outside,” Ms. Méndez said upon her release.
“A woman who spent 11 years behind bars in connection with the sudden death of her 9-month-old grandson has been freed from prison after new evidence revealed that the death may have been accidental.” —Los Angeles Times (July 13, 2018)
“Judge orders release of woman who served 11 years behind bars in grandson’s death,” Los Angeles Times (July 13, 2018)
“Great-grandmother released from prison due to new evidence, 11 years after conviction for killing her grandson,” Fox News (July 13, 2018)
“Great Grandmother Freed From Prison After 11 Years for Crime She Didn’t Commit,” NBC News (July 11, 2018)