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Hannah Overton (above) who was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted in 2006 of capital murder in the salt overdose death of her 4-year-old adopted son, Andrew Burd, has been granted a new trial.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Overton, 37, a new trial.   After Hannah Overton’s conviction was overturned and she was granted a new trial, Overton’s husband and attorney held a news conference.  Cynthia Orr, Overton’s defense attorney, said that she is confident her client will be proven innocent.  Overton has kept a positive attitude and done everything she could from prison to keep her family together.  Overton and her husband are parents of 5 children.

“We are pleased with the strong and thoughtful majority and concurring opinions of the high criminal court and are asking for the immediate return of Hannah to her family while the Corpus Christi Prosecutors’ office considers its next steps. We recognize this was not the current elected prosecutor’s case and so we are hopeful for a good relationship and favorable action by his office.”

Larry Overton, her husband, spoke about the last seven years of his life without his wife and his children without their mother, ”It’s starting to sink in. We are very excited, but just waiting to see what happens…The kids are thrilled.  [We] can’t wait for her to come home.”

Larry Overton said that the right decision was made and that he hopes prosecutors act quickly to resolve the case.  Overton has packed his family up in their van once a month and traveled 300 miles where the state of Texas has imprisoned his wife for the last seven years.

Overton’s appeal argued that she had ineffective counsel and her case contained prosecutorial misconduct.  The 7-2 ruling in favor of Overton granted her relief based upon ineffective counsel.  Three of the judges issued a concurring opinion to the majority ruling saying the proceedings were “problematic” from the start and cited several issues with the prosecutor, Sandra Eastwood.  They also noted that the defense failed to even call a salt poisoning expert whose opinion was that Burd died from an undiagnosed eating disorder.

Nueces County District Attorney Mark Skurka now has to decide whether to retry Overton on capital murder charges or on lesser charges, offer her a plea deal, or dismiss the case.

At Overton’s 2007 trial, prosecutors portrayed her as a mother out of control with frustration.  Burd, was a difficult child, according to prosecutors and she allegedly punished him using seasoning mixed with water.

The defense told the jury Burd’s death was a medical mystery.  They told the jury Burd could have had an undiagnosed case of pica, an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive appetite.  Burd could have accidentally poisoned himself because he was compelled to over consume everything.  Several witnesses said they had seen first hand Burd’s bizarre habits.  The day Burd died Overton said she found him in the pantry, but could not determine what he consumed, if anything.

Controversially, to find Overton guilty, jurors had to believe one of two scenarios:

  • Hannah Overton force-fed Burd salt knowing it would kill him.
  • Or Overton neglected to seek medical attention fast enough knowing that would result in Burd’s death.

The jury did not believe that Overton forcibly fed Burd salt instead they convicted her of capital murder based upon her not seeking help fast enough.

In 2008, Overton was interviewed by 20/20 in prison.  She was asked if she regretted adopting Burd, “I wouldn’t take that away.  He had brothers and sisters and a mommy and daddy, what he called his forever family, because we had to go through a lot of pain since then. It’s not fair to him. Or to us.”  Sandra Eastwood, the prosecutor in the case, who has been accused of unethical actions was terminated years after the case.  Eastwood admitted that at the time of the Overton case she was a chronic alcoholic and that she was on prescription diet pills causing her to suffer from memory issues.

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