LA PLATA, Md. (AP) — A woman found pushing her dead son in a playground swing last year will avoid time in prison or a mental institution under a plea deal accepted Monday.
As part of the deal, a Charles County judge found Romechia Simms not criminally responsible, media outlets reported. Before her trial began on charges of manslaughter, first-degree child abuse and child neglect resulting in death, Simms entered an Alford plea to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. That means she acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict, without admitting guilt.
The 25-year-old had been suffering from schizophrenia when she left her 3-year-old son Ji'Aire Lee on a swing for more than 40 hours before he died of hypothermia and dehydration.
"Did I mean for any of this to happen? No. It's just an unfortunate situation," Simms said in court.
Simms had faced up to 45 years in prison if convicted of the original charges. The involuntary manslaughter charge carried a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Under a five-year conditional release order, Simms must take her medication, see a psychiatrist and meet any other conditions set by a court monitor. Public defender Elizabeth Connell called the agreement to keep Simms in the community a "progressive way of thinking" and a "testament to the progress of science and society."
State's Attorney Tony Covington stressed that he was not happy with the outcome, but did not have enough evidence to refute three psychologists' findings that she was not criminally responsible.
According to a 14-page report obtained by The Washington Post, psychologist Teresa Grant of the Maryland Office of Forensic Services wrote that although Simms is competent to stand trial, her mental disorder caused her to "lack substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of her conduct or to conform her behavior to meet the requirements of the law."
Grant said Simms is not a danger and that instead of being housed in a mental institution, she should be allowed to remain in the community.
Simms was released from custody in December after her family posted bail. She has been living with her mother and teenage brother.
"As a direct result of her not taking her medicine two days leading up to this episode, Ji'Aire is dead," Covington said. "Essentially, and I can't think of any other word to use for it your honor, tortured to death."
Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com