A Texas woman’s life sentence has been overturned after being convicted for the murder of a 4-year-old foster child.
Hannah Overton and her husband, Larry, were in the process of adopting Andrew Burd, who died in 2007 from salt poisoning.
The prosecution portrayed Overton as a mother who lost control and tortured the child for misbehaving. Nueces County prosecutor Sandra Eastwood claimed that Overton would make the child sleep on plywood and burning sheets, even force feed him 23 teaspoons of hot pepper.
The defense refuted those claims, saying that Overton was not guilty because the child had pica, a rare eating disorder that causes people to eat “peculiar things.” According to ABC News, the testimony that might have proven Overton’s innocence was never heard by the jury and she was ultimately found guilty.
Since the trial, Eastwood has been terminated for unrelated reasons. Overton has repeatedly accused Eastwood of acting unethically throughout the case.
Overton’s new lawyer, Cynthia Orr, has been working hard to win Overton's release. The appellate court agreed that Overton deserved a new trial on claims of ineffective counsel. Three judges added that the proceedings in the case were “problematic from the beginning.” On Tuesday, the Nueces County judge granted her bond at $50,000 and she was released from county jail.
The 2007 arrest came almost immediately after Burd's death — so fast that the family did not even have time to mourn their loss.
"It's somebody's worst nightmare," Overton told ABC News. "After your child dies to be told that somebody thinks it's your fault."
"We were just waiting for someone to look at it and say this is just and accident," Overton's husband added.
Now, the mother of five will be reunited with her family for the holidays after seven years in prison.
"I just want to hug my kids," Overton said. "I know we'll make up for it, but I don't know what we'll be able to catch up for seven years ... it's gone and taken from us."
District attorney Mark Skurka has already announced that he intends to try Overton again on capital murder charges. No date has been set for the new trial.