Woman Freed Among Doubt "Victim" Ever Existed

July 18, 2002

   CHATOM, Ala., July 17 -- A mentally retarded woman was released from prison today by a judge who reduced her 15-year manslaughter sentence for helping to kill her sister's newborn baby, amid doubts that the child ever existed.

   The prisoner, Dianne Tucker, 38, was released by Judge Thomas Baxter of Washington County Circuit Court, who reduced her sentence to the one year she has served.

   Ms. Tucker's lawyers sought her release after a medical examination showed that it would have been impossible for her sister, Victoria Banks, to have conceived. Her fallopian tubes were cut in 1995.  Ms. Tucker, Ms. Banks and Ms. Banks' estranged husband, Medell Banks, were sentenced to 15 years on manslaughter pleas after being indicted for capital murder. Defense lawyers said the pleas were coerced.

   Ms. Banks had told the authorities while in jail on another charge that she was pregnant, and later she said she miscarried while out on bail. The authorities became suspicious when she and Ms. Tucker told conflicting stories. Mr. Banks has also appealed, but Ms. Banks, in prison for a separate crime, has not. 

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