In 2005, the night before Hurricane Katrina pummeled New Orleans, Tiffany Woods and her boyfriend Emmanuel Scott fled the city with their newborn son to outrun the flood. However, their baby died of malnutrition when resources ran dry. Monday, Woods was finally granted mercy from serving a life sentence in prison in connection to her baby’s death.
Woods had just given birth to baby Emmanuel, who tested positive for a genetic abnormality and was also born premature. According to NOLA.com, he came home at just five pounds three weeks before the hurricane reached land. Woods didn’t make a follow-up appointment before she picked her other three children to take shelter in Shreveport, 300 miles away. She was able to feed the baby boy with formula bought with government vouchers, per The Advocate. However, his health continued to decline.
“The formula he was taking, he wasn’t swallowing. He was always throwing it up, and then we ran out of WIC (food) vouchers, so I decided to switch it... I switched it to organic milk. I thought he was doing better, but he wasn’t thriving,” said Woods to the state pardon board Monday.
Within weeks of switching to regular milk, baby Emmanuel died of malnutrition, according to the autopsy. Prosecutor Suzanne Ellis saw the infant’s death as pure neglect and ignorance. Months later, the couple faced charges.
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The boy died in his crib on Nov. 27, 2005. Ten months later, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office secured an indictment for murder.
Unlike most states, Louisiana law allows murder convictions in accidental deaths resulting from a set of felonies that includes cruelty to juveniles. Also unlike most states, Louisiana murder convictions carry a mandatory life prison sentence with no chance at parole for adults. Both parents lost their appeals.
A Caddo Parish judge convicted Woods and the baby’s father, Emmanuel Scott, with seconddegree murder from a 2006 indictment under Louisiana’s unusually broad murder statute. Prosecutors needed only to prove that the pair was negligent for not taking the infant to the doctor before his death.
Upon a unanimous vote from the Louisiana Board of Pardons, Woods was released after serving 17 years in prison. She told the board she is not the same woman she was in 2005 and admitted she made a “huge mistake.”
If Gov. John Bel Edwards agrees to commute Woods’ sentence, the Louisiana Parole Project will house her until she’s able to get back on her feet, per the report. Mr. Scott is still serving a life sentence and has not applied for clemency yet.