INDEPENDENCE — A district court judge has turned down a request for a new trial in the case of a Coralville woman convicted in the death of her son in Littleton in 2008.
Michelle Lynn Kehoe, 44, said anxiety, depression and a fluctuation in her medication prevented her from taking the stand in her own defense during her 2009 trial.
She was accused of cutting the throats of her two sons — killing 2-year-old Seth and injuring her 7 year old — and cutting herself at a pond outside Littleton on Oct. 26, 2008. She initially claimed they had been kidnapped after stopping at a convenience store but eventually admitted to the attacks.
At trial, her attorneys mounted an insanity defense. She was found guilty of first-degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence.
During a September 2017 hearing, Kehoe said her attorneys at the time of the trial should have evaluated her mental health in the lead-up to trial and shouldn’t have advised her not to testify. She told Judge Richard Stochl the jury needed to hear from her that she was out of control on the day of the slaying.
In a decision filed Feb. 6, Stochl said Kehoe’s attorneys weren’t ineffective.
“This court does not find that her attorneys, considering she was under regular medical care, had any duty to obtain further medical opinions as to her ability to assist in her own defense and stand up for herself in confrontations with them,” Stochl wrote in his opinion.
“If her own psychiatrist and counselors could not identify a mental health disorder that made it impossible for her to participate in her own defense, her defense attorneys surely should not be expected to do so,” Stochl’s ruling continues.
Stochl noted while Kehoe hadn’t seen her psychiatrist in the weeks before trial, she had been attending counseling and had talked intelligently with her counselor about the upcoming court date.
He also noted Kehoe had waived her right to testify during a brief hearing during trial.
Her attorney said their strategy was to bring out Kehoe’s story through two people who treated her.
“Counsel’s advice that she not testify was clearly trial strategy because it was perceived that her story came in better through her experts … rather than through her,” Stochl wrote in his decision.
Kehoe has filed a notice that she will appeal Stochl’s ruling.