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Not guilty plea in newborn's death

March 23, 2007|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

A USC student accused of leaving her newborn baby in a trash bin outside her apartment pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder charges.

Holly Ashcraft, 22, also faces child abuse charges for allegedly dumping the baby, whose body was found outside her residence near the USC campus in 2005.

Earlier this month, a judge threw out the murder charge, saying he was not convinced prosecutors could prove criminal intent. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Wesley also said prosecutors could not show unequivocally that the baby was born alive.

Prosecutors immediately re-filed the murder charge, on which Ashcraft was arraigned Thursday.

Appearing in court with her lawyer, Mark Geragos, Ashcraft also entered a "once in jeopardy" plea, which contends she has already faced prosecution for the charge and thus cannot be prosecuted again.

She returns to court April 23 to schedule a hearing to determine if she must face trial. A judge will also hear a motion to dismiss the charges.

Geragos said he is confident the case will be dismissed. The prosecution is "just delaying the inevitable," he said of the prosecution.

Ashcraft was previously linked to the death of a baby in 2004. She showed up at a Los Angeles hospital bleeding after having apparently given birth. She told investigators that the child -- whose body has never been found -- had been stillborn and that she had disposed of it. She was not criminally charged in that incident.

In October 2005, a homeless man digging in a trash bin for recyclables found a cardboard box containing the dead baby. The coroner determined that the baby had been born alive, in part because there was air in its lungs.

Geragos argued the baby may not have been alive, citing studies that have found air in the lungs of stillborn babies.

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peter.hong@latimes.com

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