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Sanity Ruling Frees Patterson Woman 3 Years After Drowning Daughter

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PATTERSON (CBS13) – Three years after a woman drowned her 3-year-old girl, she is walking free.

Originally determined to be insane, a judge now says she’s cured.

Jennifer Bigham went from insane to sane in a matter of months. Now she is enjoying her second night of freedom, just one day after a Stanislaus County judge allowed her to walk out of jail a free woman.

Bigham admitted to killing her toddler three years ago. The judge’s decision, described by some, is extremely rare.

“I understand why people would be upset, but what you have to understand is a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, means not guilty,” University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law Prof. John Meyers said.

Because the judge ruled Bigham not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, she could’ve been sent to a mental hospital. However, testimony from a pair of doctors claimed she’s now sane, so the judge allowed her to walk free.

Meyers says while Bigham’s case is rare, the judge had the right to release her.

“It may seem anomalous to people that a person who murders a child could go quote “free” after three years, but what people need to remember is that if it’s a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, don’t forget the not guilty part,” said Meyers.

He says the doctor’s report likely played a crucial role in the judge’s decision.

“Since we found you not guilty, we can only keep you in the hospital as long as you’re a danger to yourself or others; and once a person is no longer dangerous, they have an absolute right to be released,” said Meyers.

The district attorney’s office has not yet commented on what their next move will be, if any.

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