The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday upheld the murder conviction of a 26-year-old Athens woman who stabbed to death her newborn son just minutes after she delivered him in her bedroom.
The court wrote that Cassandra Norwood’s right to remain silent was not violated when she “freely and voluntarily” told the police twice that she had “accidentally” cut the baby while attempting to sever the umbilical cord.
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But the infant’s body, found in a trash bag in her bedroom, showed more extensive injuries. The infant had been stabbed in his neck 10 times and in his torso nine times. The baby, who had been born alive, had a large stab wound to his jugular vein and a stab wound to his torso that had pierced his liver, according to the autopsy.
Justice Carol Hunstein, writing for the Georgia Supreme Court, said there was sufficient evidence presented at trial that Norwood “was guilty of the crimes for which she was convicted” — malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, family violence and three counts of possession of a knife during the commission of a crime. Norwood was sentenced to life plus five years in prison.
Norwood appealed her case last year on the grounds that the first police officer she spoke with did not explain her right to remain silent, also known as a Miranda warning. Her lawyers said information gathered in a second interview was tainted because it was based on details from the first one.
Justice Robert Benham wrote in agreement with the unanimous decision of the court that Norwood was not in custody the first time she was questioned, so there was no need for a Miranda warning.
The justices noted that Norwood in the second interview had simply “repeated the general content of the first interview and went into far more detail about the incident, about inconsistencies between (her) statement and the physical evidence, about (her) failure to obtain prenatal care, about her efforts to hide her pregnancy and about (her) culpability.”
Norwood was 20 and living with her parents and two sisterswhen the incident happened in 2012. She was 40 weeks pregnant, but neither her family nor the baby’s father knew.
On Oct. 31, 2012, in the hours after she went trick-or-treating with her sisters and nieces, Norwood went into labor. She told police she got a kitchen knife so she could cut umbilical cord.
The next morning, one of her sisters saw blood on Norwood’s bedroom floor and told the rest of the family Norwood was acting strangely. Her parents took Norwood to the hospital, but a sister found the baby’s body and the placenta inside a trash bag at the foot of her bed.
Police later found blood in the bathroom, a 10-inch kitchen knife under some bedding with blood stains and a pocketknife with a small blade under the baby’s legs.
Norwood, questioned at the hospital, claimed her hand “must have accidentally cut the baby’s neck” while she was trying to cut the umbilical cord.
“She said the baby made a facial expression and a noise when he was cut,” the decision said. “She said she then put blankets on his neck to try to stop the bleeding. She did not tell her parents or sisters she had given birth or that the infant was in the house,” according to the ruling.
Even when confronted with the number of stab wounds, Norwood denied cutting the baby more than once. She also said she did not put the baby in a trash bag and she claimed she knew nothing about a second knife.
“She was adamant that the one injury she had caused was accidental,” the court document said.