Testimony continues in Beecroft murder trial

Medical examiner testifies baby was born alive

Prosecutors are for the second time laying out their case against Nicole Beecroft, accused of stabbing her newborn daughter to death in 2007.

On Thursday, a Ramsey County medical examiner testified the infant was born alive. Beecroft's defense team has argued that prosecutors can't prove beyond reasonable doubt that the baby was alive at the time she was stabbed.

Beecroft's defense team hasn't denied that Beecroft gave birth to the baby girl in the basement laundry room of her mother's Oakdale Home in April 2007. The baby's body was found in a trash can outside.

Beecroft, now 24, was a 17-year-old senior at Tartan High School and worked part time at a local a grocery store before she was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the infant's death.

Beecroft was originally convicted of the crime in 2008, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed her conviction last year due to questions about whether medical examiners were pressured not to testify in her defense. Also last year, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling stated mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole were against the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment for children age 17 and younger.

The Washington County attorney's office has again charged Beecroft with first-degree premeditated murder, and her second trial began July 15. Beecroft again waived her right to a jury trial, and the case is being heard by Judge John C. Hoffman after the original trial court judge was disqualified.

Time of death the focal issue

Principal assistant medical examiner Kelly Mills, who has worked for the Ramsey County medical examiner's office since 2002, was called to testify for the state.

Mills performed an autopsy on the newborn and at that time took more than 200 photos of the body -- many of which were presented as evidence during the trial. Mills said her findings indicate the infant was born alive and died as a result of sharp force injuries.

Mills testified that she believes the baby girl, who weighed 7 pounds and 13 ounces, was born alive and would have been able to survive outside her mother's womb if not for the stab wounds.

Mills said various observations, including that the baby's placenta appeared normal, the baby appeared to have had her first bowel movement outside the womb, and an X-ray showing air in the baby's chest cavities and stomach, all suggest the baby was born alive.

Bruising around the stab wounds also suggests the baby was not dead when they were inflicted, Mills said.

"The stab wounds were inflicted when she was alive," Mills said.

Defense attorney Christine Funk sought to discredit Mills' opinion that the baby was alive when she was stabbed.

During cross examination, Funk asked Mills whether it would have been possible for a baby to breathe air into its lungs while still in the birth canal and then later die as a result of a birthing accident, which Mills acknowledged was possible.

Funk also asked Mills whether it's possible for a form of bruising to appear after death and whether hemorrhaging could be caused by postmortem trauma, which Mills also acknowledged was also possible. However, Mills said she believes the bruises on the baby couldn't have been caused after death because their appearance was not consistent with postmortem seepage.

Funk also pointed to the fact that minimal or no blood was found in the body cavities surrounding the baby's stab wounds, but Mills said a possible explanation for this was the fact that the infant wouldn't have had much blood circulating through her body to begin with and that there was a substantial amount of blood found on a towel that was also in the garbage bag.

Prosecutors planned to call more witnesses before the defense presents its side of the case. The trial is expected to continue through Aug. 2.

Alex Holmquist can be reached at aholmquist@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

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