Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Baby Killer

The Verdict

The Schenectady County jury deliberated almost 20 hours over three days. The panel later reported there was at least some initial confusion over the wording in the New York murder statute. However, once that uncertainty was cleared up, the panel quickly reached a decision. On the afternoon of July 17, 1987, Mary Beth Tinning, 44, was found guilty of murder in the second degree in the death of Tami Lynne, showing "a depraved indifference to human life." The jury could not agree on the issue of whether she actually intended to kill the child. But her statements to the police were the pivotal factor in the jury's decision.

"I think we could have convicted her without it," one juror told the Albany Times Union, "but that was a great part of it. We went over and over it, and there's no way in my mind that I feel she gave it unwillingly." The defense claimed that Marybeth was intimidated by police and would have admitted to anything. But the jury disagreed. "[Police] gave her so many opportunities to say 'I want to stop, I want a lawyer, I want to use the phone," the juror said later, "but she never did that." The conviction carried a potential 20 years to life sentence.

After the verdict was announced, Marybeth covered her face with her hands and began to weep. Joe Tinning was typically unmoved. "I can't really complain that they didn't think about it," he said later of the jury, "they did their job, I just have a different opinion on it" (July 18, 1987, New York Times). Defense attorney Paul Callahan told the press he would file an appeal immediately. The appeal, he said, would be based on Tinning's epic 36-page confession to investigators on February 4. Callahan said the document should never have been admitted into evidence.

District Attorney John Proesch said he was pleased with the decision and Mrs. Tinning may have to stand trial in the deaths of some of her other children. "I can assure you this is round one," he said to reporters outside the courthouse, "I will see Mrs. Tinning and the defense again!" (July 18, 1987, Albany Times Union)

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