The Iowa Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for an Iowa woman convicted of killing her infant child. Heidi Anfinson was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of her 15-day-old son in September of 1998 and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Anfinson was charged after he son Jacob turned up missing. As police searched for the boy, Anfinson told officers that she had been bathing the boy and left to answer the telephone. Anfinson says she came back and discovered the boy had drowned. Anfinson led police to Saylorville Lake, where they discovered Jacob’s body submerged under rocks in shallow water.
During a later interview with police, Anfinson said she had "freaked" when she found Jacob’s dead body in the bath water, and took him to the lake and placed his body in the water. Anfinson sought to have her conviction overturned saying her lawyer dismissed the idea of raising an insanity or diminished capacity defenses despite evidence she was suffering from severe postpartum depression at the time of Jacob’s death.
Anfinson claims evidence of her depression should have been developed and offered in the criminal trial to give a plausible explanation of why Anfinson was so distracted that she she left her two-week-old baby unattended in the bath water, why she behaved irrationally in subsequently taking Jacob’s body to the lake, and she seemed emotionless later that same day when she was questioned by investigators about the child’s disappearance.
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld Anfinson’s conviction saying she could not use post-partum depression as the basis for an insanity defense. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Anfinson’s purpose in offering evidence of her post-partum depression was not to further her claim she was insane or incapable of forming a specific intent at the time of son’s death, but rather to support her theory Jacob’s death could have been accidental.
The High Court says Anfinson has met her burden to prove her lawyer rendered prejudicial ineffective assistance by failing to investigate and present evidence of Anfinson’s depression as support for the accidental death defense, and she is entitled to a new trial. This is will be the third trial for Anfinson, as the first trial ended in a hung jury.