DA to declare Texas mother of 5 innocent in 2007 salt poisoning case

PHOTO: Hannah Overton, far right, sits next to her attorney, Cynthia Orr, center, and prosecutor, Doug Norman, April 26, 2012, in Corpus Christi, Texas. PlayTodd Yates/Corpus Christi Caller-Times/AP Photo
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A Texas district attorney says he plans to formally dismiss the capital murder case against Hannah Overton, a south Texas mother of five who had been convicted in the 2007 salt poisoning trial for the death of her foster son.

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez announced Tuesday that he plans to officially declare Overton innocent in the death of 4-year-old Andrew Burd, the child Overton and her husband, Larry, were in the process of adopting before he died more than 10 years ago.

"It's so amazing to finally be declared actually innocent," Overton told ABC News today. "A day I felt sometimes would never come."

Overton, who has long maintained her innocence, spent seven years in prison for the young child’s death. Her case earned international attention because many believed she was wrongfully convicted and her story was featured in the documentary, “Until Proven Innocent.” ABC News has followed Overton's and her husband's story since her original 2007 trial.

Overton had been released on bond in December 2014 after a Texas appellate court overturned her conviction and life sentence. But former Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka charged Overton a second time for murder after her release.

Those charges were not considered double jeopardy because Overton’s conviction was overturned by the higher court on the basis of ineffective counsel, which granted her a new trial. Overton's original trial attorneys admitted at an appeals hearing that they had made errors.

Skurka ended up dropping the new case against her in 2015, but refused to declare her innocent of the crime.

Gonzalez’s official statement of Overton’s innocence will grant her access to state funds that are provided to the wrongfully convicted and also prevent her from being tried for the crime again, thus closing a significant chapter on this decade-long case. Gonzalez said he plans to make the announcement at the Corpus Christi Bar Association's Law Day Luncheon today.

"This day has been 10 long years in the making and I am gratified that Hannah has been vindicated, declared actually innocent as a matter of law," said Overton's attorney Cynthia Orr. "District Attorney Mark Gonzalez's decision to dismiss Hannah Overton's case with prejudice is courageous and in the highest tradition of our profession. He serves as a true minister of justice, not seeking to convict, but to do justice without regard to public opinion or personal recognition. This makes me proud of lawyers and judges who seek to do right and in doing so make our justice system the better for all of us."

Overton was convicted of capital murder in 2007 after being accused of force-feeding Burd enough sodium to kill him. The prosecution portrayed her as a mother who had lost control and tried to punish the young boy by giving him seasoning mixed in water. At the time, Overton had four children and was pregnant with a fifth, and had no prior trouble with the law.

The defense presented the jury with a medical mystery. They speculated Andrew might have had pica, an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive appetite and that Andrew accidentally poisoned himself by consuming a fatal amount of sodium.

Larry Overton was also charged with murder, but after his wife's conviction, he was offered a plea deal and was given probation. After he completed his probation, the charges were dismissed.

The Overtons live in East Texas and told ABC News today that for the past year and a half they have housed and supported prisoners after their release through their non-profit organization, Syndeo Ministries.

"I am very grateful to Mark Gonzalez for declaring Hannah's innocence and bringing closure to this case for our family, allowing our family one more step in the healing process," said Larry Overton.