Former Hamilton County home day care providers Daniel and Saundra Wahl will get a new trial following a decision by the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn their convictions for involuntary manslaughter.
The Wahls were tried and convicted in the death of Anthony DiRienzo, 20 months, after the toddler was found wedged in a broken baby gate in June 2013.
The couple was sentenced and served time in prison for the crime, but the Wahls alleged their trial was tainted by juror misconduct.
In 2015, they filed two separate briefs with the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Call 6 Investigates has reported the couple alleged an alternate juror actively participated in deliberations and attempted to influence other jurors into finding a guilty verdict.
In an Indiana Supreme Court opinion handed down Tuesday, the court agreed the alternate juror did impact deliberations.
The Wahls’ appellate attorney told RTV6 it was the right decision.
“The Wahls are pleased with the Supreme Court’s thoughtful decision and their obvious concern with the alternate juror’s unlawful and inappropriate behavior,” said Scott Barnhart, attorney for the Wahls. “Yesterday’s decision requires that their respective cases be sent back to the trial court where the convictions will be reversed and the case will likely be reset for a second trial. That is, the Supreme Court’s decision essentially restarts the litigation process, reverses and removes the convictions from their records, and reattaches the constitutional presumption of innocence for the Wahls.”
The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office declined to comment to RTV6 on the Supreme Court decision.
When offenders appeal their convictions or sentences, the Attorney General’s Office represents the prosecution in appellate court, taking over the case from county prosecutors who handled the cases at the trial court level.
“When offenders appeal their convictions or sentences, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office represents the prosecution in the appeal. As the concurring opinion noted, the Supreme Court’s decision here does not focus on the defendants’ guilt or innocence or the sufficiency of the evidence to convict them in the child’s death, but rather the conduct of an alternate juror in the jury room whose influence upon the actual jurors is unknown. Jury duty is a solemn responsibility citizens have and those chosen to serve must carefully follow the trial court’s instructions. Appellate courts provide procedural safeguards, and this ruling means that the case returns to the trial court for further proceedings,” Public Information Officer Bryan Corbin of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office said.