Jury Deadlocked in Breast Milk Meth Poisoning Trial

A judge declared a mistrial Thursday after jurors deadlocked in the case of a woman accused of killing her baby by nursing with methamphetamine-laced breast milk.

The jury stalemated 6-6 in the murder case against Amy Leanne Prien, said Ingrid Wyatt, spokeswoman for the Riverside County district attorney's office.

Prien, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence for felony child endangerment, would have faced 15 years to life if she had been convicted. The jury got the case June 15 after a 2 1/2-month trial.

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The district attorney's office has until July 11 to decide on retrying the case, which began when Prien was arrested in January 2002 and was charged with murdering 3-month-old Jacob Wesley Smith.

Prien was convicted of second-degree murder in 2003, but an appeals court overturned the conviction in September, citing flawed jury instructions from the trial judge.

The prosecution was believed to be the first of its kind in California.

Prien said she woke up and found her son dead in her bed on Jan. 19, 2002. The prosecution argued during the trial that Prien, who had smoked meth for 10 to 15 years, would breast-feed her child after smoking even though she knew it could damage him.

When Prien was arrested, blood tests showed the methamphetamine levels in her blood were within a potentially lethal range, but police never tested her breast milk.

Her attorney, Joe Reichmann of Los Angeles, argued that the charges were based on "make-believe science" because authorities never knew how much of the drugs were in her milk.

Defense co-counsel, Stephen Yagman, said Thursday in a phone interview that the baby's death was caused by pneumonia and not drugs.

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