A Washington County judge has been disqualified from presiding over a new trial for Nicole Beecroft, convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder for stabbing her newborn baby to death.
Judge Mary Hannon had sentenced Beecroft, then an Oakdale teenager, to life in prison without parole.
In May, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Beecroft on grounds that interference from Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and the chief medical examiner in St. Louis County, Dr. Thomas Uncini, discouraged other medical examiners from testifying in Beecroft's defense. Doing so hampered defense efforts to argue that the baby was stillborn, the high court said.
Soon after the new trial was ordered, Beecroft's public defenders asked the court to appoint a new judge.
In an order filed Sept. 4, Judge Douglas Meslow disqualified Hannon from the new trial to avoid any appearance of bias. The court record shows "that she fairly and impartially listened to evidence during the first trial," wrote Meslow, assistant chief judge of the Tenth Judicial District.
However, "an objective, unbiased layperson with full knowledge of these facts and circumstances would question Judge Hannon's ability to disregard the testimony from Beecroft's prior trial" in a new trial and such a perception would exist with any judge, he wrote.
The new trial, for which no date is set, will be heard by John Hoffman, the district's chief judge.