MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A Senate budget committee chairman said the Legislature appears unlikely to go along with his plan for the state to pay nearly $119,000 to a west Alabama woman who spent nine months in jail facing a capital murder charge that resulted from a botched autopsy on her newborn son.
The Legislature's wrongful incarceration committee recommended the money for Bridget Lee of Carrollton, and Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, included it an appropriations bill. The Senate passed it, but the House deleted the money. Orr said Tuesday night a conference committee of House and Senate members declined to put the money back because of opposition in the House. House members said the appropriation did not have the support of some legislators from the Carrollton area.
The conference committee's recommendation still must be approved by the Senate and House.
Lee was accused of killing her newborn son in 2006, but further investigation showed the baby was stillborn.
She wept after learning of the conference committee's decision Tuesday night. She said getting the charge dropped took nearly three years of her life and wiped out her money.
"I've lost everything. I've worked since I was 14, and the state took everything I had," she said.
Alabama law allows the state Legislature to compensate people who are wrongfully incarcerated. The wrongful incarceration committee recommended the $118,767 payment after the district attorney who initially prosecuted Lee, Chris McCool, said he never would have brought the case against her if he had the correct facts from the beginning.
Lee was a bank bookkeeper and Baptist church pianist when she had an affair in her small west Alabama town of 1,000, got pregnant and tried to keep it secret. She felt sick on Nov. 6, 2006, went home from work and delivered a premature baby in her bathroom. She panicked, placed the newborn in a plastic container and hid it in her vehicle for several days before a co-worker's husband notified authorities.
Lee told investigators the baby was born dead, but a state forensic pathologist ruled the child suffocated.
She was indicted for capital murder, which carries the death penalty. She spent nine months in jail and 20 months on home confinement at her parents' home.
During the ordeal, her husband divorced her and got custody of their two children.
Her attorney got an independent expert to review the autopsy. His findings led the Alabama Department of Forensic Science to reopen the case and rule the child was stillborn.
Lee still lives in Carrollton and works at a date entry job. She has also returned to playing piano at Aliceville First Baptist Church. In a recent interview, her pastor, Charlie Wilson, said compensation from the state "would be a blessing to her and her children, but it's not going to get her back what she lost."
Lee said she is determined for the state to help her and her children. "I will fight for this to the very end," she said.