Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Convicted Baby Killer Pleads for a New Life Tanya Hudson Seeks to Overturn Verdict

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Convicted Baby Killer Pleads for a New Life Tanya Hudson Seeks to Overturn Verdict

Article excerpt

Byline: Alexa Jaworski, Times-Union staff writer

She said she wanted her baby.

She had plans for the baby.

None of the plans, she insists, included murder.

But two sets of juries didn't believe her.

A year into a four-year sentence for killing her seconds-old daughter, Tanya Hudson is hoping a court lets her return to the life she knew.

It was a life that included volunteering at a children's clinic, coaching high school basketball and being nominated by her friends to be a torchbearer for the 1996 Olympic Games.

It was also a life, two different St. Johns County juries decided, that included putting her baby into a plastic bag and then hiding it inside a cooler in her bedroom.

Hudson continues to maintain, as she has throughout her trials, that the baby was stillborn that June day in 1997. Her attorney has asked the court to overturn the manslaughter conviction for which she is serving time in Lowell Correctional Institution in Central Florida; an appeals court will decide July 9 whether to overturn the conviction, order a new trial -- which happened with her first conviction -- or reject the appeal.

Prosecutors are fighting the attempt. In the past, they have called her story a self-serving tale from a woman who felt backed into a corner with the sudden birth of a child she didn't want.

Hudson, now 28, tries to keep a positive attitude. One day, after she said she heals from her situation, she hopes to have children of her own.

"I would love to have more children," Hudson said as she sat in a straight blue prison dress in a visiting room at Lowell. "I hope I will be blessed with that."

Much of her pre-prison life involved children. The former Nemours clinic volunteer and high school basketball coach wanted to become a teacher, but her conviction doesn't allow her to pursue that goal any more. During her six years of probation, she must perform 200 hours of community service each year at a worksite not involving children under age 15.

"I enjoy children. I love to be around them. I love to see them grow," she said. "I will miss that."

Since being sent to Lowell, she has become certified in architectural drafting. Getting a degree of some sort while in prison was a choice she said she made for herself before being sent there.

Hudson's case is a story full of choices.

After talking with a doctor over whether to continue her pregnancy, a then-24-year-old Tanya Hudson made a choice on her own: She would walk out of the family planning clinic still pregnant.

ANOTHER CHOICE

State prosecutors said she faced another choice while alone in her parent's bathroom a few months later -- to let the baby live or die.

Once in 1998 and again June 6, 2000 -- which would have been her daughter's third birthday -- jurors convicted Hudson of manslaughter, believing she chose to kill her baby.

Hudson said in reports that she unexpectedly gave birth to a child that was a purplish color and didn't make a sound. Although her mother was in the house, Hudson didn't call for help. Instead, she wrapped the baby and placenta in plastic bags and placed them in a cooler in her bedroom because she was afraid of her boyfriend's reaction and didn't want to cause her mother any distress.

"When I went into the bathroom, in no way did I ever have any idea that I was in labor or that I was getting ready to deliver my daughter," she said. "I didn't go in there to seclude myself, lock myself in, to hide myself."

But an autopsy determined the baby was born alive and there was an injury deep in the neck, which suggested the baby was choked to death.

Prosecutors called Hudson's version of her baby's birth a calculated tale to protect herself after seeking late-term abortions and hiding her pregnancy so well no one could tell she was carrying a child. …

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