Paragraph four reads: "Defense lawyer Grover Porter argued that Knight was unaware she was pregnant and when the baby was born, could not remember what happened because she had taken anti-depressants and other medication.
Mother gets prison for drowning baby in toilet
By MIKE KATAOKA
RIVERSIDE - A judge sentenced a Riverside woman Friday to 15 years to life in prison for murdering her newborn son by drowning him in a toilet.
Donna Michelle Knight, 38, was convicted nearly a year ago of second-degree murder but her sentencing was delayed while her lawyer sought grounds for a new trial.
Prosecutor Deena Bennett contended that Knight intentionally killed her baby boy in September 1999 by drowning him in a toilet. She argued that the defendant, who was not married, had concealed her pregnancy and killed her newborn because, she said, she feared repercussions from her church.
Defense lawyer Grover Porter argued that Knight was unaware she was pregnant and when the baby was born, could not remember what happened because she had taken anti-depressants and other medication.
After Knight was convicted, a juror sent Porter an e-mail expressing concern that there had been mistakes during deliberations that affected the verdict.
Porter was granted court permission to contact jurors to determine if they misunderstood instructions that resulted in a murder, rather than an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
On Friday, Porter said he was convinced that had jurors not been confused about the law, they would have considered an involuntary manslaughter verdict.
The jury misconduct, however unintentional, resulted in an unfair trial, he said.
But Riverside County Superior Court Judge Ronald Taylor agreed with Bennett that the court is not permitted to examine jurors' mental processes during deliberations. Only an overt display of misconduct would justify a new trial, he said.
In sentencing Knight, Taylor said he would have considered probation if she really had been unaware of her pregnancy.
"I found it implausible and unbelievable that Ms. Knight would not know she was pregnant," the judge said.
Porter argued that Knight weighed close to 300 pounds and had no idea she was carrying a child. She also visited at least three doctors who did not detect the pregnancy.
Bennett said Knight saw doctors but never saw an obstetrician-gynecologist.
She said Knight changed her story four times and "has shown no remorse whatsoever."
Bennett, who sought a first-degree murder conviction, said it is very likely that Knight delivered the baby on the bathroom floor, placed him in the toilet and repeatedly attempted to flush him down the toilet. A pathologist testified at the trial that the baby breathed and lived for up to 10 minutes before he drowned.
"I don't believe it was a terribly sophisticated crime. I do think it was unbelievably heinous," the prosecutor said.
"It is a most tragic case for all parties concerned," Taylor said.
Reach Mike Kataoka at (909) 368-9411 or firstname.lastname@example.org