Mother convicted her two children's death could get new trial on drug charges
BRADLEY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals agrees with Natasha Bates and her lawyer, and will allow for a new trial on her drug-related convictions from the same trial that convicted her of felony murder.
Natasha Bates was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 -- after she was found guilty in connection with the deaths of her two young sons, River and Leland.
During the trial, a medical examiner said the boys died of overheating, after being in a hot car for a period of time.
Bates was also found to have meth in her system the day of their deaths, and convicted on four counts of manufacturing meth.
But in an appeal, Bates' attorney argued there wasn't enough evidence to convict her on drug charges, and the appellate court agreed with their appeal this week.
The appeal asked the court to decided on three arguments, "the defense argues that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that the court erred by not severing the drug-related offenses from felony murder and aggravated child neglect offenses; and that the court erred by ordering certain of the sentences to be served consecutively."
The Criminal Court of Appeals agrees with Bates and her lawyer on one of those arguments, but upheld the rest of the convictions.
The court says the drug-related charges should have been prosecuted separately from the felony murder case.
Channel 3 asked Bates' public defender if this means there's a chance the two murder convictions could also be reversed in appeal.
While unlikely, it is possible.
"When she was going to be tried with that evidence coming in, and children were living in there in those circumstances, it made a difficult case more difficult," said Public Defender Richard Hughes
Hughes says murder trial against Natasha Bates -- who was convicted for the deaths of her two young children -- might have had a different outcome if the drug charges were not included.
"Good and decent people have strong feelings about the use of methamphetamine, the manufacture of methamphetamine, especially how it impacts families and children," Hughes said.
Now those drug convictions have been reversed. The appeals court says, "The State presented no proof that the defendant was inattentive because, as the victims were trapped and dying, she was facilitating to initiate a process to manufacture methamphetamine or purchasing ingredients to do so."
The court will allow a new trial only for the drug charges.
During an emotional conversation with Natasha Bate's father in law on Friday, he shared memories of his grandchildren. He said his opinion on this appeal, "It's not my call, it's god's call. if he wants her out of jail, I'm OK with that."
Hughes says he will continue to appeal to a higher court, arguing for a new murder trial and a lesser sentence for bates now serving two life sentences in prison.
"I'll be raising that same issue about severance and how those counts affected the outcome of the homicide," Hughes said, "And i'll raise the issue again about the imposition of consecutive sentences, that that was excessive."
But even Bates' attorney says getting a reverse conviction for the two felony murder charges is very unlikely.
"My concern is, most appeals filed by my office, Tennessee State Supreme Court will refuse to hear it," said Hughes.
It's up to the District Attorney's office if they wish to pursue a new trial on the drug charges.
Their office did not want to comment on the case just yet.
Both the DA and the public defender have 60 days to appeal this decision.
Saturday, January 20 2018 6:08 PM EST2018-01-20 23:08:09 GMT
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