Sarah Allen found Guilty
AUBURN - Sarah Allen was sitting on a bench in the courtroom, talking and laughing with her parents and friends, when the phone rang in the judge's chambers.
It had rung several times over the past three days. But it was always a false alarm. The jury wanted part of the transcript, or it was ready for lunch.
Still, it silenced Allen immediately.
Within seconds, her lawyer, Verne Paradie, came into the courtroom and announced that the jury had a verdict.
The seven women and five men spent 13 hours trying to decide whether the Lisbon mother was guilty of manslaughter for shaking or jerking her 21-month-old son with enough force to kill him.
Unlike the jurors at Allen's first trial, they eventually all agreed.
Allen, 31, took her seat at the defendant's table, put one hand on her chest and took deep breaths as the jurors entered the room.
The jury foreman stood and announced the verdict.
Allen's eyes widened, then she let her head drop. As Paradie reached his arm around her back, she whispered, "But I didn't do it. I didn't do it."
The oldest daughter of a computer scientist, the stay-at-home mom will remain free on bail until her sentencing.
She faces up to 40 years in prison.
State prosecutors William Stokes and Lisa Marchese both admitted they were nervous about the outcome, especially since they had tried the case last June and the jury was deadlocked after 18 hours of deliberations.
"These types of cases are difficult," said Stokes, Maine's deputy attorney general. "You don't have a witness. You don't have a weapon."
What the state did have was 11 doctors who agreed that Nathaniel Allen died from inflicted head injuries - not from a pre-existing brain disorder as argued by the defense's medical experts.
"I think we made the right choice," to try this case again, Stokes said. "We felt strongly that we had to give it a shot. Nathaniel deserved that from us."
Allen and her husband, Jeremy, adopted Nathaniel from Guatemala in April 2002.
Sarah Allen and her son were home alone on the night of Feb. 14, 2003. The boy spread applesauce in his hair, then fussed in the tub bath.
The state convinced the jury that Allen lost her temper at some point and either shook or jerked the toddler with enough force to cause his brain and neck to bleed.
Allen has maintained her innocence all along.
She and her family left the courthouse Friday without commenting on the verdict. Her lawyer described her as "not good."
"I think she's in shock," Paradie said. "I honestly don't know how she's taking it. She hasn't said much."
Paradie plans to fight the verdict by filing a motion for new trial in Androscoggin County Superior Court, then filing an appeal with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court as soon as Allen is sentenced.
He claims one of his expert witnesses, a neuropathologist who teaches at Brown University and was hired to examine Nathaniel's brain and eyes, has found more evidence that the boy had a seizure disorder.
Dr. Suzanne de la Monte made the findings too late to submit them as evidence, Paradie said. But he believes the jury deserved to hear about them.
"I have to think that the jury would think differently if they knew more about what was going on with this child," Paradie said.
While leaving the courthouse Friday, the jurors said they had decided as a group not to comment.
Allen is tentatively scheduled for sentencing on March 25. Her husband, Jeremy, will also be sentenced that day. He was convicted of assault in September for beating Nathaniel with a wooden spoon on the day before the boy was rushed to the hospital.
Because Nathaniel was younger than 6, Jeremy Allen's conviction is a felony conviction, and it could land him in prison for up to five years. The conviction has caused Allen to lose his job as a public affairs officer for the Navy.
As for Sarah Allen, state prosecutors said they haven't decided what they will recommend for a sentence. It will include time in prison, Stokes said.
Paradie acknowledged that the chances of getting a sentence without prison time are not good.
"In a case of this nature," he said, "you have to be realistic."<!-- stopprint -->