New evidence found in shaken baby case

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She’s been in prison for nearly a decade, convicted in the death of a baby girl in her care. Now, new evidence has turned up that could eventually lead to a new trial for Jennifer Del Prete.

Del Prete, 43, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shaking a baby she was caring for at a home-based daycare center.

14-month-old Isabella Zielinski suffered brain damage and died 10 months later.

But in a ruling Monday, a federal judge said “no reasonable jury” would have found Del Prete guilty of murder.

The judge cited new evidence indicating the state’s own witnesses contradicted the theory that the baby died of acute trauma inflicted only when she was in Del Prete’s care. The evidence included a decade-old letter discovered by Northwestern University’s Medill Justice Project.

But Del Prete is not going free any time soon. Her lead attorney, Patrick Blegen, says the legal team must now proceed on separate claims that her trial lawyer erred by failing to challenge the science behind shaken baby syndrome and presenting an inadequate expert to testify about the child’s injuries.

At a status hearing today in Federal Court her lawyers asked for more time to decide the best procedural move.

The next hearing in the case will be held February 5th.

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