DES MOINES, Iowa — An Oklahoma woman convicted of killing her newborn in a Fort Dodge hotel has been awarded a new trial.
The Iowa Court of Appeals issued its ruling in Hillary Tyler’s case Tuesday, reversing her conviction. Tyler had originally been charged with first degree murder but was convicted on a lesser charge of second degree murder in February of 2013. She was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison.
The court ruled in favor of Tyler’s claim that the medical examiner’s opinion on the cause of death should not have been allowed as evidence because it was based on Tyler’s admissions to police and could not be backed up by the findings of the autopsy.
Officials say when Tyler became pregnant in 2011 she denied the pregnancy to those who asked. She gave birth in a Fort Dodge hotel room on September 19th, 2011. The baby boy’s body was found in the trash can of the room by hotel staff.
According to court documents Tyler initially told police that the baby made no sound and didn’t move after the birth. In a later interview with police she changed her story and said the baby moved and cried after birth and she filled the bathroom’s tub with water and placed the baby in the tub facedown.
During the trial the medical examiner testified, “everything that was stated within [Tyler’s] statement [was] consistent with the autopsy, so in my opinion, I felt [Tyler] was being truthful.” He later testified that based on the autopsy results there was no way medically or scientifically he could give an opinion on whether the baby was born alive or whether the child drowned.
The appeals court agreed the medical examiner’s testimony may have played a major role in the jury determining the baby’s death was due to Tyler’s actions and threw out the conviction. Her case is now remanded for a new trial.