Child killer may get chance at parole
A convicted child-killer sentenced to life in prison may get a chance at parole after an appeals court partially reversed the verdict.
Delfina Luna Jahnigen's defense attorney, however, must first convince a jury the woman didn't torture the 4-year-old boy she was convicted of murdering.
Opening statements were to begin Wednesday.
Jahnigen, 34, was convicted in May 2001 of murdering and torturing her foster son, Jamie Mayne.
The 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno partially reversed that conviction in May 2003, ruling that Tulare County Superior Court Judge Patrick O'Hara gave jurors an incomplete definition of first-degree murder during jury instructions.
The judge defined murder as the killing of a human being by torture or malice. But the appellate court said O'Hara should have read separate instructions for the definitions of torture and malice.
Prosecutors in the first trial said the physical evidence pointed to a prolonged period of abuse. The boy died from internal bleeding, a ruptured bowel and a collapsed heart on Feb. 10, 2000, after a struggle with Jahnigen when he refused to bathe, according to police.
Jahnigen also was convicted of abusing a 9-year-old foster daughter.
If found not guilty of the torture allegation, Jahnigen's life sentence could be reduced to 25 years to life, with the possibility of parole.