A Casper judge decided Monday not to allow a woman sentenced to prison in May for aggravated child abuse to withdraw her guilty pleas.
Stephanie Shirts claimed her attorney provided ineffective counsel by inaccurately informing her of her appeal rights.
Natrona County District Judge Catherine Wilking sided with Shirts’ former lawyer, Sarah Jacobs, who said she had informed her client that she would not be able to appeal previous court decisions after pleading guilty.
Shirts rolled a hot saucepan on a 14-month-old girl’s face in September 2014 and shook the baby with enough force to require trauma care.
She also suffocated the infant with a blanket because the child wouldn’t stop crying. The baby was taken by helicopter to the children’s hospital in Aurora, Colorado, with a brain bleed and bleeding in the eyes.
The infant has undergone speech therapy to overcome the traumatic brain injury she sustained during the abuse, a prosecutor said at Shirts’ sentencing hearing. The baby has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Shirts was charged after the girl’s mother, Bobbi Humphreys, took the infant to the hospital. An emergency room doctor at Wyoming Medical Center contacted Casper police about a patient with injuries indicative of child abuse.
In February, Shirts pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse, one count of aggravated child abuse and two counts of child endangerment with methamphetamine. Wilking sentenced Shirts to 18 to 20 years behind bars.
Shirts claimed inside a Natrona County District courtroom Monday that Jacobs inaccurately informed her of her rights to appeal decisions made by Wilking prior to her pleading guilty.
Shirts said Jacobs told her she could appeal Wilking’s decision to allow jurors to hear her statements to law enforcement, should the case have gone to trial. Shirts thought she would be able to appeal other court decisions, as well.
Wilking ruled Monday she found Jacob’s testimony to be more credible because she had a better recollection of conversations that had transpired between her and Shirts.
Shirts’ new lawyer, Linda Devine, has filed an appeal with the Wyoming Supreme Court. That appeal, which is pending, also claims ineffective assistance of counsel.