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Article updated: 6/24/2012 7:05 AM

Friends of Barlett woman push for clemency

By Mike Riopell

SPRINGFIELD -- Supporters of a Bartlett woman convicted in 1999 of shaking a baby to death gathered in front of the Illinois Capitol Saturday morning to ask Gov. Pat Quinn to review her case and grant her clemency.

Former day care worker Pamela Jacobazzi's backers say new science around shaken baby syndrome and evidence not presented at her first trial point to her innocence. She's being helped by the Illinois Innocence Project, based at the University of Illinois Springfield.

"The theory that she was convicted with has been discredited since then," said Jacobazzi attorney Anthony Sassan.

In 1999, a jury found Jacobazzi guilty of first-degree murder in the 1995 death of 2-year-old Matthew Czapski. She was charged with shaking the child in August of 1994, and he remained in a coma until 1995, when he died.

Now, though, supporters say that jury was never told about evidence that the child had medical conditions that could have been mistaken as shaken baby syndrome. In addition to asking Quinn for clemency, a hearing in Jacobazzi's case is scheduled for November, where her attorneys hope to get a new trial.

Jacobazzi's sister, Vita Giessler, told reporters she trusted her sister with her own children.

"She did the baby-sitting," she said. "She did the swimming with them."

Jacobazzi is serving at Lincoln Correctional Center, with a projected parole date in 2015, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections website.

Asked about the case Friday, a spokeswoman for Quinn didn't comment.

But DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin pushed back against the effort.

"We will try our case in a court of law, where we expect to contradict the defense's new theory through the presentation of evidence and the cross examination of expert witnesses," Berlin said in a statement. "This case will not be tried in the media or the court of public opinion. My office stands by the conviction and the jury's finding of guilt."

At Saturday's news conference in support of Jacobazzi, Michelle Weidner of Peoria talked about being accused of child abuse and later vindicated. A CT scan of her young child appeared to show a skull fracture, raising questions of abuse. It was later discovered that her child moved slightly during the scan, creating a blurred image.

"It was, in fact, nothing," she said.

Daily Herald staff writer Josh Stockinger contributed to this story.

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