Nearly a decade after an Illinois woman who worked at a Romeoville daycare was convicted for allegedly causing the head injury that led to the death of 14-month-old Isabella Zielinski, a federal judge ordered her release from prison while her claims of innocence are being considered.
reported that Jennifer Del Prete’s 2005 conviction was based on unreliable scientific evidence. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly wrote that it is “more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found her guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Though it is rare for a federal judge to order a prisoner’s release in a case like Del Prete’s, Kennelly made an exception because of the substantial evidence of her innocence.
Del Prete, a mother of two, was sentenced to 20 years following the murder. She has always maintained her innocence of any wrongdoing.
After a hearing last year that reviewed evidence in Del Prete’s case, Kennelly ruled that even the testimonies of the state’s own experts suggest it was probable that the child’s fatal injury was not caused by Del Prete.
Although she has yet to be released from Logan Correctional Center, Kennelly wrote in his decision that Del Prete “should not have to wait in custody” during her appeal. He ordered the Illinois Attorney General to arrange a set of bond conditions under which Del Prete can be released.