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Condemned inmate Cathy Lynn Henderson won a reprieve Monday from a divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that will keep her from being executed this week for the slaying of a 3-month-old child in her care.
Henderson, 50, was scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the death of Brandon Baugh, whose skull was bashed in while she was baby-sitting him. His body was buried in a wine cooler box as she fled the state more than 13 years ago.
The state's highest criminal court voted 5-3, with one judge not participating, to send the case back to the trial court to examine arguments that Henderson was innocent of capital murder and that constitutional errors led to her conviction.
In an appeal filed late last month, Henderson's lawyers said new scientific evidence bolstered the baby-sitter's contention the child died when she accidentally dropped him and his head struck the concrete floor at her home in Pflugerville, a north Austin suburb.
A medical examiner who testified for the prosecution in 1995 that Brandon's death could not have been an accident submitted an affidavit with Henderson's appeal that he believed scientific tests not available a decade ago now show his conclusion was incorrect.
"Had the new scientific information been available to me in 1995, I would not have been able to testify the way I did," said Dr. Robert Bayardo, the now retired chief medical examiner in Travis County.
Because Henderson's appeals had been exhausted, her lawyers needed to convince the courts their latest appeal introduced new evidence.
A court majority agreed.