Convicted murderer could get new trial in case of toddler's death

January 22, 2010 3:19:55 PM PST
A Montgomery County man sentenced to life in prison for the death of his girlfriend's baby daughter could soon be getting another trial. Today a judge accused the medical examiner who ruled the child's death a homicide of lying. It was Judge Michael Mayes' opinion that the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the 17-month-old lied in order to swing the case in the state's favor. While prosecutors say they respect the judge's decision, they by no means, are ready to call it quits.

For convicted baby killer Neal Robbins, who was sentenced to life, the judge's recommendation that the court of criminal appeals grant him a new trial was a moment 11 years in the making.

"I'm ecstatic," said His brother Brandon Robbins. "I'm so happy for my brother. So many things have been taken away from him over the last 12 years, 11 years and I wish my mother and grandmother were here to see this and support him."

Neal Robbins was convicted in 1999 of killing his girlfriend's daughter who he was babysitting. During the trial, Dr. Patricia Moore, who conducted the autopsy on 17-month-old Tristen Rivet, testified the baby was asphyxiated and the victim of a homicide. Moore's testimony was critical to the state winning it's conviction. But in 2007, she changed her opinion. Robbins' attorney has been fighting for a new trial ever since.

"What we saw and what we heard and what we witnessed today just underscores how the criminal justice system, when you think it can't or it won't, in the bottom of the nine comes in and does the absolute right thing," said Robbins' attorney Brian Wice.

Yet the state isn't giving up. Prosecutors claims Robbins had harmed the child before, arguing that on three separate occasions the 17-month-old was seriously injured while Robbins was taking care of her.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Demore said, "One of the things that we would have to explore if we're talking about whether or not to have a new trial, is whether we could present medical evidence that establishes this was a homicide. I don't know if that's available or not at this point."

The state hasn't decided whether it will file any objections to the judge's recommendation.