NEW LONDON — A Superior Court judge Wednesday granted a new trial for Julie Amero, 40, a Norwich substitute teacher whose faulty computer spewed pornographic images in her seventh grade classroom.
“A great weight has been lifted off my back,” said a tearful Amero.
The new trial ordered by Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein comes after a campaign on Amero’s behalf by computer security experts around the country, who offered evidence showing that Amero’s computer was taken over by malicious “spyware” that caused a rapid fire sequence of pornographic “pop-up” windows to appear on the screen.
In setting aside the guilty verdict, Strackbein ruled that the witness the state presented as a computer expert, a Norwich police detective, provided “erroneous” testimony about the classroom computer.
“The jury may have relied, at least in part, on that false information,” said Strackbein.
The motion for a new trial was filed on Tuesday by Amero’s attorney, William F. Dow. The motion said that evidence gathered after Amero was convicted in January of four counts of risk or injury to a minor casts serious doubt on her guilt.
The judge cited a forensic computer analysis conducted by the state police crime lab – conducted after the guilty verdict – to support the argument that the verdict should be set aside. She said the lab report “contradicts testimony of the state’s computer witness.”
At Amero’s trial, the state maintained that Amero failed to act to prevent her students from glimpsing at images of the pornography. Assistant State’s Attorney David Smith argued then that the evidence was “clear cut” that Amero was at fault because she caused the pornography to appear on the computer.
But today, Smith said state would take no position on Dow’s motion for a new trial, making it unlikely she will be tried again. Smith also acknowledged that erroneous information about the computer was presented during trial.
Amero, who was pregnant at the time of the incident on Oct. 19, 2004, faced as many as 40 years in jail following the January verdict. Her sentencing was postponed four times this spring as the state considered new evidence in the case.
Amero’s case became a hot issue for bloggers throughout the country, many of whom sharply criticized the guilty verdict. Strackbein criticized the bloggers today, saying they tried to “improperly influence” the court.