Stephanie Greene’s prison term was set at 20 years by a South Carolina judge this week. Greene killed her 6-month-old daughter via an overdose in her breast milk, which contained a lethal amount of morphine.
According to The Associated Press on Friday, via MSN News, the 39-year-old “said nothing as the minimum sentence was handed down. A jury found the former nurse guilty of homicide by child abuse the day before and she could have faced up to life behind bars.”
Greene’s sentence is a first for courts in the United States – no nursing mother has ever been prosecuted for killing a child through any kind of toxic substance delivered to an infant via breast milk. For that reason alone, the sentence is likely to be appealed, and it could be months, if not years, until Greene sees any actual jail time.
A Spartanburg County jury found Greene guilty on Thursday of involuntary manslaughter, unlawful conduct toward a child and homicide by child abuse. Greene’s daughter, Alexis, was found dead four years ago in her parent’s home.
In court, a pathologist testified that baby Alexis had a lethal level of morphine in her system, an amount so high that it could have proven fatal to adults as well.
Prosecutors said Greene was addicted to painkillers and hid her pregnancy from her doctors. Greene also concealed the fact that she had given birth so that doctors would continue to prescribe morphine painkillers. In order to continue her addiction, Greene schemed to skip appointments with her physician when it was obvious she was pregnant, and would send her husband to pick up her pain medicine.
“She was a nurse. She knew how to work the system,” prosecutor Barry Barnette said. “She caused the loss of that child.”
Defense attorney Rauch Wise attempted to paint a different picture, stating that Greene suffered from chronic pain after a 2010 car wreck and could not function without her medication.
“She needed those meds to get up in the morning and function,” Wise said. “She was on total disability because of her pain, her fibromyalgia and all the other things wrong with her.”
Wise said his client has “already suffered an immeasurable loss with the death of her child and shouldn't have to face prison time.”