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5/28/05 Lawyer lauds baby-burning verdict

BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer 
Tulsa World (Final Home Edition),
Page A19 of News

His client, the dead infant's mother, 'needs a tremendous amount of counseling,' he says. A young mother who was convicted of manslaughter early Friday for not preventing the burning death of her infant "will never stop grieving" and "needs a tremendous amount of counseling," her attorney said. But Jeannie Henderson, 20, "is happy that it (her trial) is over and she can try to start recovering," the lawyer, Patrick Adams, wrote in an e-mail response to a request for comment. A jury that deliberated for about 10 hours chose not to return a verdict on a second-degree murder charge in the case but instead exercised the option of reaching a verdict on the lesser offense of second-degree manslaughter. The jury sentenced Henderson to four years on that conviction. Adams has maintained that Henderson was the target of "awful allegations" that were not supported by evidence. He asserted that an "attentive" jury, through its verdicts, disagreed with the contention that Henderson had passed out in a methamphetamine "crash." In his e-mail, Adams maintained that the outcome -- not being convicted of murder -- "was not just a victory for Jeannie, but a victory for the criminal justice system as a whole." District Attorney Tim Harris had charged Henderson with second-degree murder, contending that 8-month-old Christian Marten burned to death Dec. 14, 2003, at their home at 1933 S. Indianapolis Ave. because his mother, deprived of sleep during a weekend drug binge, passed out and couldn't hear his screams. Henderson was acquitted of a felony count of child neglect, which contained allegations that Christian's 3-year-old sister, Katelyn Henderson, watched her brother burn to death because of the drug-related conduct of Henderson and her co-defendant, the baby's father, Jerry Lee Marten. The neglect count carried a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. Jurors found Henderson, 20, guilty of a felony count of possessing methamphetamine in the presence of children younger than 12 and imposed a four-year sentence and a $25 fine. She also was convicted of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and incurred a 90-day sentence on that charge. A second-degree murder conviction, as opposed to the manslaughter verdict, would have allowed a punishment ranging from 10 years to life in prison, with parole possible. That charge involved an allegation that Henderson displayed a "depraved mind," engaged in imminently dangerous conduct and showed disregard for human life, although without any premeditated design to cause death. The maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter is four years in prison. That applies to cases of "culpable negligence" -- not doing something a reasonable person would do or failing to exercise ordinary care and caution. During Henderson's trial, Harris told jurors that "I personally reviewed this case and charged her with what she is charged." After the trial, Harris said he respects the jurors and their verdicts. Marten, 24, still faces a trial on the second-degree murder, neglect and drug counts. Both defendants have been in jail since Jan. 22, 2004.

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