Judge declares mistrial in case of woman accused of killing her baby by microwaving her

Eds: ADDS background; minor edits. Note contents.

AP Photo CO101

By JAMES HANNAH

Associated Press Writer

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- A judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of woman accused of killing her month-old daughter by burning her in a microwave, finding that new defense witnesses bolster her claim that she is innocent.

Judge John Kessler made the decision after hearing testimony privately from a juvenile who said he was at the apartment complex of defendant China Arnold on the night her infant died in August 2005. The judge did not give details about the juvenile's testimony.

Arnold, 27, showed little emotion when the judge announced his decision but appeared sad as she walked out of the courtroom and was returned to jail. Family members in the courtroom had no audible reaction but hugged one another in the hall as they were leaving.

Testimony was complete in the trial, and it had been on the verge of going to the jury. Kessler continued a gag order in the case, so neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys would comment.

The judge had also heard testimony from the father of the juvenile who said he was at the complex and was presented with affidavits from an adult witness. Prosecutors asked Kessler to reject the evidence, questioning its truthfulness, the judge said.

But Kessler said that the evidence is new and that the defense hasn't had a chance to investigate it.

Ordering the trial to move forward without considering the evidence would be instant grounds for reversal of any conviction, Kessler said.

Allowing the evidence during the final stages of the trial would deny prosecutors and defense attorneys a full opportunity to investigate it, he said. It could also affect how Arnold chose to confront other witnesses and influence her decision to testify or not, he said.

Kessler discharged the jury and ordered the case placed back on the court docket for further scheduling.

Police investigators believe Arnold killed the girl, Paris Talley, by putting her in a microwave at her Dayton home. Coroner's officials said the baby suffered high-heat internal injuries and had no external burns.

Arnold could face the death penalty if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty.

During the trial, prosecution witnesses said Arnold admitted that killing the baby by putting her in the microwave, that the baby was small enough to fit into the oven and that a sample of DNA found on the ceiling of the appliance matched that of the child.

Defense witnesses said that Arnold told them she had nothing to do with the baby's death and didn't know how it happened and that she expressed shock at being told the child might have been burned in a microwave.