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Attorney for Baltimore County woman says 32 years too long to wait

The attorney for a woman accused of killing her child 32 years ago is trying to get the case dismissed, arguing that too much time has passed, prejudicing his client.

When 5-year-old Edward Coffman died in 1972 in his family’s Baltimore County home, the medical examiner listed the cause of death as blunt-force trauma and the manner of death as undetermined. His mother, Diane Bernice Coffman, said he hit his head in the bathtub and died hours later.

But last year, after Edward’s brother Richard sent an e-mail to investigators implicating Diane Coffman, another medical examiner declared the death a homicide.

Diane Coffman, who had since moved to Florida, was arrested and charged with murder.

Her lawyer, Dominic R. Iamele, argued that there was no good reason for the second medical examiner to declare the death a homicide, since there was no new evidence. He also said that most of the witnesses he would have questioned, including the investigating police officer and the original medical examiner, are dead.

He further argued that Richard Coffman made his accusations because he has AIDS-related dementia.

Assistant State’s Attorney Susan Hazlett said she agrees that 32 years is a long time, but argued that the prosecution would be prejudiced by the unavailability of witnesses, too. She attributed the new medical examiner’s opinion to scientific advances.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge John G. Turnbull II said the differing opinions give him some great concern, but he said he will not rule on the motion yet.

Copyright 2005 Dolan Media Newswires

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