11:08 AM EST, January 18, 2013
LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — An Indiana woman serving a life sentence in the 2005 beating death of her 4-year-old stepdaughter has asked a judge to reverse her conviction.
Michelle D. Gauvin's attorney claimed during a court hearing Thursday that the Lafayette woman received poor representation from court-appointed attorneys during her murder trial in the March 2005 death of Aiyana Gauvin.
State deputy public defender Joanna Green told a Tippecanoe County judge considering Gauvin's bid for post-conviction relief that trial attorneys failed to object to what she claims was irrelevant and prejudicial testimony from state witnesses, the Journal & Courier reports (http://on.jconline.com/UURXjc ).
That included a sheriff's deputy who described Aiyana's death as the "worst crime he'd seen in his career" and testimony about Gauvin's behavior, including conflicts with neighbors.
Gauvin avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty in September 2006 to murder, criminal confinement and neglect of a dependent. She was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Aiyana died from head injuries after what investigators described as months of abuse by her stepmother and father. Gauvin told police she had bound the girl's wrists with a plastic tie and placed duct tape over her mouth before putting her to bed. Prosecutors said she had been tied to objects, forced to eat blended and liquefied foods, and at times, beaten with a broken cutting board.
Christian Gauvin, the child's father, is serving a 50-year sentence for child neglect resulting in death. The Indiana Department of Child Services agreed in June 2011 to pay $75,000 to Aiyana's family to settle a wrongful death suit. The agency was accused of mishandling reports that the girl was abused in the months before her death.
An agency review team found that case workers mismanaged the risks posed to the child. As a result, state law was changed to mandate that caseworkers handle no more than 12 assessments and 17 children on average at any given time, and caseworkers are now required to undergo 12 weeks of training. Experienced caseworkers have continuing education requirements.
A spokeswoman for the agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
Judge Thomas Busch is not expected to make a decision on Gauvin's conviction for at least 120 days.
Michelle Gauvin did not attend Thursday's hearing.
Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com
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