Münchausen, She Wrote: Mother Convicted of Killing Her Son and Poisoning Her Daughter Receives Pair of Life Sentences
|St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department|
|Judy Pickens' booking photo upon her arrest for murder in February 2006|
"This child died a junkie's death, with blocked lungs, lungs like he worked in a coal mine," said Garvey in court today. "There was no other conclusion to draw, and this needs to be said: Children's Hospital did not kill this child. The mother killed this child."
It was an emotional morning, with five of Pickens' friends and relatives expressing their belief in her innocence and asking Garvey for mercy. Said her husband, Karl Pickens: "I still say my wife has not done nothing to my kids."
Rev. Beulah Brandon, pastor at Trinity Full Gospel Church, said Judy Pickens was a model for other parents in the congregation. For years, said Brandon, "She's been working on programs for parents who just didn't know how to be parents and didn't want to be parents."
Pickens professed her innocence to the judge in a quiet and tearful speech. "I don't think [the jury was] given enough from my side," she said. "I know I did not do this."
But Garvey didn't buy it.
"Children's Hospital took these children in and devoted some of their smartest people and some of the best health-care professionals this area can offer," said the judge. "They thought they were fighting disease. They weren't. They were fighting Ms. Pickens."
Garvey acknowledged Pickens' relatives, saying he has never seen a more supportive or loving family in a courtroom "especially in a case like this," but added that Pickens' relatives must accept "the overwhelming evidence" against Judy Pickens.
"To hang onto the idea that this hospital killed this child is fantasy," concluded Garvey. "And you need to leave that fantasy, both for the memory of Mikal and for his sister."
Prosecutor Shirley Rogers had offered Münchausen syndrome by proxy as a possible motive in the children's poisoning. Considered a form of child abuse, as opposed to a mental illness, Münchausen by proxy refers to a caregiver, often a mother, who inflicts harm or death upon someone in order to gain attention and sympathy -- to appear a hero. The condition is considered a controversial diagnosis in the medical community.
In Pickens' case, a St. Louis psychologist, Michael Armour, who conducted a psychological examination of Pickens, determined she had engaged in Münchausen syndrome by proxy, according to court records. It is the first case in Missouri in which testimony on Münchausen syndrome by proxy has been allowed as a motive.
Pickens plans to appeal.