COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A woman who was imprisoned without parole for killing her daughter by throwing the infant in the trash after giving birth at her college sorority house should be resentenced, a divided Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.
The justices also ordered that a different judge should handle the resentencing of Emilie Weaver, now 27. She was convicted of aggravated murder and several other counts stemming from the child's death in April 2015. Weaver could have been sentenced to life with a chance for parole in as little as 20 years, which was requested by her attorney, but Judge Mark Fleegle said he wasn’t convinced Weaver was remorseful.
Weaver sought post-conviction relief in 2017, arguing her lawyer didn't present a complete explanation of neonaticide and she could have received a lesser sentence. Neonaticide is the murder of an infant within 24 hours of birth.
Fleegle, who also handled the post-conviction relief hearing, discredited an expert witness who tried to explain Weaver’s condition. An appellate court upheld the sentencing, but in their 4-3 decision announced Thursday, the state Supreme Court found Weaver had ineffective counsel at her sentencing.
Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor noted in the majority opinion that Fleegle demonstrated an arbitrary and unreasonable attitude toward evidence of both neonaticide as well as “pregnancy-negation syndrome,” where a person is in denial about their pregnancy.
Prosecutors have said Weaver gave birth in a bathroom at the Delta Gamma Theta sorority at Muskingum University, then purposefully caused the death of her baby. They said the baby girl died from asphyxiation after Weaver put her in a plastic trash bag and left her outside the sorority house.
Weaver testified at trial that she had been in denial about the pregnancy and thought the baby was already dead when she put the newborn in the trash bag.
Public defenders who represented Weaver did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment on the decision.