Judge wants decision in child death case First trial ended in mistrial
Author: Stephen Gurr Staff Writer
A woman whose June murder trial on charges of killing her 21-month-old daughter ended in a mistrial may find out by next month whether prosecutors intend to retry the case.
On Thursday, Forsyth County Superior Court Judge David Dickinson denied a request from defendant Jill Ellen Depaillat to loosen bond restrictions that prevent her from being alone with her 4- year-old son. But the judge also said he will ask prosecutors by next month what they intend to do with the case.
"The state is on notice that within 30 days, the court is going to be making an inquiry," Dickinson said.
Dickinson declared a mistrial in the seven-day trial after a jury came back deadlocked on the verdict. Jurors said they were hung up 11 to one in favor of an acquittal.
Depaillat, 41, testified during the trial that her adopted Chinese daughter, Mia, slipped from her grasp and fell down a flight of wooden stairs at her home in the Brookwood Plantation subdivision in April 2004. Mia Depaillat died two days later from internal injuries at Scottish Rite Children's Hospital.
During the trial, Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge put up evidence indicating the injuries to the toddler, including retinal hemorrhaging, pointed to shaken baby syndrome.
Depaillat's attorney, B.J. Bernstein, countered with a medical expert who testified the injuries could have been sustained accidentally.
Depaillat took the witness stand to emphatically deny ever shaking, punching or throwing her child.
Depaillat has been free on $50,000 bond since her arrest six months after the child's death. A bond condition that she wear an ankle monitoring device was removed after the mistrial.
In Thursday's hearing, Bernstein argued that preventing Depaillat from having unsupervised contact with her young children was creating a hardship. Depaillat's husband, Christophe, has had to work from home in order to meet the conditions of the bond.
"Mr. Depaillat cannot keep his job and continue working from home all the time," Bernstein said.
Bernstein noted that officials from the state Division of Family and Children Services had been monitoring the household "and no violations have been observed as far as problems in the house."
Dickinson said, however, that he was reluctant to lift the bond condition until the state indicates whether they will try the case again or dismiss the charge. Depaillat faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of murder.
"I am somewhat hesitant at this time, based upon the court's awareness of the evidence in this case," Dickinson said. "I'm not sure it's best at this time to eliminate this provision."
Reached after the hearing, District Attorney Penny Penn said she has not made a decision on how to proceed with the case.
E-mail Stephen Gurr at stephengurr@forsythnews- .com.