'The Trial of Louise Woodward': The controversial case behind the ITV documentary

·TV Reporter
·3-min read
From Voltage Productions 

THE TRIAL OF LOUISE WOODWARD
Thursday 11th November 2021 on ITV 

Pictured:  Defence attorney Andrew Good (L) questions his client, British nanny Louise Woodward (R), during re-direct testimony as she testifies on her own behalf in her murder trial in a Cambridge, Massachusetts courtroom, October 27. Woodward is accused of shaking nine month-old Matthew Eappen to death while he was in her care in February 1997.

The courtroom battle over Louise Woodward, a British nanny accused of murdering an American baby in her care, stunned the world as it played out live on TV. Neary 25 years later, this documentary revisits the gripping and controversial trial, which continues to divide medical and legal opinion today, and features revelatory interviews with the lead defence lawyer as well as with key expert witnesses on both sides.

(C) Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo 

For further information please contact Peter Gray
Mob 07831460662 /  peter.gray@itv.com

This photograph is (C) Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme THE TRIAL OF LOUISE WOODWARD or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com
Louise Woodward at her 1997 trial. (Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo)

It's been 25 years since British nanny Louise Woodward faced murder charges in the US as a teen, and ITV documentary The Trial of Louise Woodward looks back at the case.

The real-life courtroom drama was controversial for many reasons, including its shock change in conviction.

Read more: On This Day - British nanny Louise Woodward freed after appeal

Here's the story behind the case that shocked people on both sides of the Atlantic.

When is The Trial of Louise Woodward on TV?

The documentary airs on Thursday, 11 November at 9pm on ITV and will be available to watch on the ITV Hub.

What was Louise Woodward accused of?

From Voltage Productions 

THE TRIAL OF LOUISE WOODWARD
Thursday 11th November 2021 on ITV 

Picture Shows : Louise Woodward bites her lip during a press conference at Manchester airport June 18 1997 where she denied killing the U.S. baby in her care and voiced faith that her name would one day be cleared. Woodward returned to Britain following the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court to uphold the sentence given by Judge Zobel.

The courtroom battle over Louise Woodward, a British nanny accused of murdering an American baby in her care, stunned the world as it played out live on TV. Neary 25 years later, this documentary revisits the gripping and controversial trial, which continues to divide medical and legal opinion today, and features revelatory interviews with the lead defence lawyer as well as with key expert witnesses on both sides.

(C) Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo 

For further information please contact Peter Gray
Mob 07831460662 /  peter.gray@itv.com

This photograph is (C) Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme THE TRIAL OF LOUISE WOODWARD or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com
Louise Woodward worked as an au pair in the US. (Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo)

British au pair Louise Woodward was working in the US when she was accused of causing the death of a baby in her care.

Woodward, a 19-year-old at her 1997 trial, was looking after nine-month-old baby Matthew Eappen for parents Deborah and Sunil Eappen, both doctors, in Massachusetts from November 1996, but on 4 February 1997 she took Matthew to hospital after noticing he wasn't breathing.

Read more: The true story behind Impeachment: American Crime Story

Matthew died in hospital on 10 February 1997 when his life support machine was switched off after a major brain haemorrhage and Woodward found herself arrested for battery and facing a charge of first-degree murder.

Police alleged that she had caused Matthew's death by shaking him after he had spent the day crying.

What happened at the trial?

NEWTON, MA - FEBRUARY 6: Louise Woodward, 18, from England, arraigned this morning in Newton District Court. Her Attorney, Maria Galvagna, left. (Photo by Tom Landers/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
The teen's trial sparked huge debate. (The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Woodward has always strongly denied causing Matthew any harm, but police claimed that she had admitted to shaking the infant after he had had a fussy day.

Although medical experts testified in court that there was no evidence of Matthew being shaken and confirmed that his injuries could have happened even weeks before his death, prosecutors insisted that Woodward had told police she "may have been a little rough" with him.

The jury found her guilty of second-degree murder which carried a mandatory life sentence with a minimum term of 15 years, but after filing an appeal her sentence was quickly reduced to involuntary manslaughter with 279 days served and Woodward was sent home to the UK.

From Voltage Productions 

THE TRIAL OF LOUISE WOODWARD
Thursday 11th November 2021 on ITV 

Pictured :  Barry Scheck (centre) and Harvey Silverglate (R, with beard), lawyers for British au pair Louise Woodward leave the Middlesex District Court after Woodwards' murder conviction sentence was lowered to manslaughter in Cambridge, MA 10 November. Woodward was sentenced to time served. 

The courtroom battle over Louise Woodward, a British nanny accused of murdering an American baby in her care, stunned the world as it played out live on TV. Neary 25 years later, this documentary revisits the gripping and controversial trial, which continues to divide medical and legal opinion today, and features revelatory interviews with the lead defence lawyer as well as with key expert witnesses on both sides.            

(C) AFP via Getty Images 

For further information please contact Peter Gray
Mob 07831460662 /  peter.gray@itv.com

This photograph is (C) AFP via Getty Images and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme THE TRIAL OF LOUISE WOODWARD or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com
Louise Woodward's lawyers Barry Scheck, centre, and Harvey Silverglate, right, with beard. (AFP via Getty Images)

She still refutes any suggestion that she was rough with Matthew and gave a Panorama interview to Martin Bashir with her version of events.

The trial stirred up many controversies, with debate around the Eappens choosing to leave their baby in 19-year-old Woodward's care and whether the au pair's nervous smile at trial meant anything.

Read more: 50+ true crime documentaries to watch on Netflix

Later in 1997, she lost a civil lawsuit brought by the Eappens to prevent her from earning anything from selling her story.

After returning to the UK, Woodward trained and worked as a lawyer, which she later quit to pursue a career as a salsa dance teacher.

She is now married and has a daughter.

The Trial of Louise Woodward airs at 9pm on Thursday, 11 November on ITV

Watch: Impeachment: American Crime Story allows Monica Lewinsky to tell her story

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