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Sanders v. State

Supreme Court of Georgia
303 S.E.2d 13 (1983)


Facts

Lillian Sanders (defendant) was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of her infant daughter, Cassandra. At trial, the evidence showed that Cassandra had been born premature by 12 weeks and had significant health issues. On the night of Cassandra’s death, Sanders went to a neighbor’s house to call for an ambulance and indicated that Cassandra was ill. Emergency personnel arrived to find multiple bruises on Cassandra’s neck, face, chest, and abdomen, as well as blood on Cassandra’s head. Cassandra died shortly thereafter. At the hospital, the police and a worker from child-protective services questioned Sanders, who initially indicated that she did not know what happened to Cassandra. However, Sanders later admitted that she might have dropped Cassandra on the ground and then struck Cassandra to make her stop crying. Medical evidence revealed that the primary cause of Cassandra’s death was a severe head injury. Additionally, Cassandra had multiple contusions all over her body, indicating an ongoing series of blows. At trial, a clinical psychologist for the prosecution testified that Sanders exhibited several characteristics of a battering parent and concluded that Sanders met the criteria for battering-parent syndrome, because she carried forward to her own children a pattern of violent and abusive conduct that she had experienced when she was young. Further, the psychologist stated that Sanders was under ongoing stress caused by money and housing and had a history of using poor social judgment. Sanders was convicted and subsequently appealed.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is the black letter law upon which the court rested its decision.

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Bell, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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