Fourteen years to the day that Jessica Chappel Rizor delivered a baby girl that she said she thought was stillborn, Rizor appeared in Washington County Court via video trying to get her first-degree murder conviction overturned.
Rizor, now 41, had placed the 8-pound infant, born Nov. 26, 2004, in a plastic bag in the trash, which her then-husband found in their Washington home.
An autopsy determined the baby had been born alive, but with alcohol in her system that had been absorbed from her mother’s bloodstream. The cause of death was ruled asphyxiation. Rizor contended she did not know she was pregnant.
After her 2008 trial, a jury convicted Rizor of first-degree murder and Judge John DiSalle sentenced her to life imprisonment.
Rizor, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, Lycoming County, has retained attorney Joshua Camson, who hoped Judge John DiSalle on Monday would consider words Bob Brady, Rizor’s trial lawyer, is alleged to have spoken in retrospect about his representation of his client.
Camson hoped a Brady admission would lead to the judge lessening Rizor’s sentence.
Brady staked Rizor’s defense on having mental health experts testify at her trial, but DiSalle in 2008 did not permit the testimony. Brady is said to have later told attorney David DiCarlo, who previously represented Rizor, that he should have been better prepared.
What is known as “ineffective assistance of counsel” can be a reason for receiving a new trial.
DiSalle ultimately ruled this was hearsay testimony which he would not consider in Rizor’s quest to be resentenced to five to 30 years on a guilty-but-mentally-ill third-degree murder plea.
Camson had argued Rizor did not understand the law at the time of her trial.
“We not arguing she was not competent to stand trial,” he told the judge Monday.
First Assistant District Attorney Dennis Paluso portrayed Rizor as “someone who was given, on three different occasions, plea offers and rejected them. She knew what the risks were.”
Brady, meanwhile, has not testified in Rizor’s post-conviction efforts and he has been declared “unavailable” since moving to Thailand. During the trial, he portrayed Rizor as having been in denial about her pregnancy.
DiSalle has yet to rule on other aspects Rizor raised in her attempt to obtain post-conviction relief, and the judge indicated he will examine transcripts of previous court proceedings. Camson said he plans to file a memorandum with the judge next week.