Judge hears evidence as Verona day care provider asks for new trial in 2007 death of baby boy

A Rock County judge must decide whether to grant a new trial to a woman who was convicted of reckless homicide a decade ago.

Jennifer Hancock is serving 13 years in prison in the death of baby Lincoln Wilber, who died while in Hancock’s care at her in-home day care in 2007.

In the first of four hearings scheduled in Dane County court, Judge Daniel Dillon listened Thursday to new evidence in Hancock’s case.

The Wisconsin Innocence Project, who is representing Hancock, filed a motion in February for a new trial, citing flawed medical testimony in the 2009 trial. The prosecution’s leading medical witness in the 2009 trial is now changing his opinion about how the 4-month-old died.

“I no longer can state to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that Lincoln died from a non-accidental trauma,” said Dr. Michael Stier during Thursday’s hearing.

Stier is a University of Wisconsin-Madison forensic pathologist who performed the baby’s autopsy in 2007. He said a subdural hematoma seen on the baby showed signs of abuse but now says other infants with a similar condition died by means other than abuse.

Judge hears evidence as Verona day care provider asks for new trial in 2007 death of baby boy

In court Thursday, the prosecution questioned whether Stier has adequate research to back up his arguments.

“Essentially today you’re expressing less of a degree of medical certainty about the conclusion from those autopsy findings?” special prosecutor Brian Holmgren asked Stier.

“Yes,” Stier replied.

“But you’re not saying that your testimony was inaccurate in any way shape or form?” Holmgren asked.

“That’s correct,” Stier said.

Dillon, who serves in Rock County, is presiding over the case because one of the defense witnesses is John Hyland, a current Dane County Circuit Court judge.

More hearings are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 19 and Dec. 20.

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