exposing the dark side of adoption
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Judge declares murder mistrial 11 of 12 jurors vote to acquit mother in death of infant


Author: Crystal Ledford Staff Writer

Superior Court Judge David Dickinson declared a mistrial Tuesday after a 10-man, twowoman jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision after more than a day of deliberations on charges of felony murder and aggravated battery against Jill Ellen Depaillat of Cumming.

Jurors in the case went into deliberations at 4:15 p.m. Monday and finished at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday after hearing six days of testimony in the case against 41-year-old Depaillat who was charged in the April 2004 death of her 21- month-old adopted daughter Mia.

"It's very disappointing and there's really not much more I can say about it," said Forsyth County Chef Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge. "But I still stand behind everything I said over the past six days and don't regret trying this case."

After a day and a half of deliberations, 11 of the jurors had decided to acquit Depaillat.

"Obviously, I'm very pleased," said defense attorney B.J. Bernstein. "I was very encouraged that 11 of the jurors had made the decision of not convicting my client. I would have liked the 12th to do that also, but the fact that my client was home last night with her children was wonderful."

Bernstein said after the mistrial decision was made, there were "just a lot of tears" from her client and her family.

"There's been so much tension and emotion with this family, that there was just a lot of emotion (expressed) last night," said Bernstein on Wednesday morning.



In what was dubbed a "battle of the experts" trial, Partridge argued that Depaillant's adopted daughter Mia was killed maliciously by her mother.

Bernstein argued Mia's death was caused by an accidental fall down stairs.

"Despite all efforts to try and confuse this jury, the bottom line is children do not die falling down the stairs," said Partridge in her opening statement.

During closing arguments, Bernstein countered by presenting the final witness Janice Ophoven, a medical expert, who concluded in her opinion that findings in Mia's death were "consistent with an accident."

Partridge said a retrial in the case may be pending.

"A decision on a retrial will be made at a later date," she said Wednesday.

E-mail Crystal Ledford at crystalledford@forsythnews.com.

2006 Jun 29