Dr. Michael Moritz, clinical director of pediatric nephrology at Children's Hospital in Pittsburg, is a specialist in children's kidney diseases. According to Texas Monthly, he published a seminal paper on salt poisoning in 2007.
Moritz was brought in when Cynthia Orr, Overton's appellate attorney discovered the records of Burd's stomach contents not previously disclosed to the defense. They showed salt levels were not elevated with the boy arrived at the urgent care clinic.
In his earlier research, Moritz found children who accidentally ingest too much salt often fit a narrow profile, living in the foster system or being from abusive homes, and suffering from a disorder known as pica.
While Burd was depicted by Texas prosecutors as being a "normal" four-year-old boy, TM's Pamela Colloff provides extensive biographical details on the Overtons and the foster boy they wanted to adopt that tell otherwise. Andrew's adoption supervisor suspected the boy had pica, an eating disorder.
It involves eating largely non-nutritive substances, sometime including clay or chalk or other materials.
Moritz said the stomach contents report is evidence no murder was committed. "If someone was trying to murder Andrew, they would have restrained him and prevented him from drinking water, " Moritz's affidavit says. "The very dilute gastric sodium contents suggest...that he had unrestricted access to water."
Moritz goes on to say: "There is not a single piece of evidence which suggests that Hannah Overton salt-poisoned Andrew." He says it is far more likely Andrew "salt-poisoned himself."
Currently again on appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Overton's conviction was made possible by jury instructions. It made no difference whether Overton forced the boy to eat salt or he did it on his own and she failed to get him timely medical attention.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Exculpatory forensics not disclosed to defense in capital salt poisoning case
Via Food Safety News, Pam Colloff at Texas Monthly has a new story out this month about Hannah Overton, sentenced to life without parole for allegedly poisoning her child with large quantities of salt, questioning the conviction based on forensic evidence about stomach contents that wasn't turned over to the defense:
Read Colloff's whole story here.