The Minnesota Board of Pardons on Monday laid the groundwork for the sentencing of a 35-year-old Burnsville woman who drowned her newborn baby in a bathtub and threw the body in a shoebox.
Samantha Heiges was 19 in 2005 and involved in a violent relationship when she gave birth to a baby in a bathtub in the apartment. Heiges said the baby’s father physically injured her in an attempt to end the pregnancy and told Heiges to kill the baby. Heiges said her boyfriend threatened to kill her and the baby if Heiges did not end the baby’s life himself.
“I really thought in my head that no one could see a child being born and still not have it. I wanted to keep her. I named her, I loved her,” Heiges told the board. “Not a day goes by that I do not feeling guilt and remorse over what happened. “
Heiges dismissed a lawsuit and a potential 48-month jail sentence at the time in favor of a jury trial. And a Dakota County jury convicted Heiges of second-degree premeditated murder. She was sentenced to almost 25 years in prison, of which she has served almost 13.
Family members, medical experts and others said Heiges was living with constant regret after taking her infant daughter’s life and spending years working to improve herself through education and volunteer work while in prison. And they said Heiges should be released into the community so she could help raise her now-living daughter.
The three-member panel – whose members are Gov. Tim Walz, Justice Minister Keith Ellison and Supreme Court Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea – all agreed to let Heiges serve the rest of his sentence on probation instead of jail. The board is set to meet again next month and will take up a formal plan for Heiges’ release.
“This is happening because we believe you will make this work and you will succeed,” Walz said during the virtual consultation.
The panel met Monday after a five-month delay spurred on by a challenge to state law that requires unanimous approval from the board to allow pardon. A Ramsey County judge ruled in July that the law was unconstitutional and that a 2-1 vote should be enough to pardon anyone. But the Minnesota Supreme Court in September overturned that decision, finding the law unconstitutional.
The board on Monday issued more than a dozen extraordinary pardons at the delayed meeting in the spring of 2021. The pardons can be given to individuals who have served their sentences and prove to be of “good character and reputation.”
The panel rejected a request for transformation into Lincoln Caldwell’s life sentence in a murder in Minneapolis. In 2006, Caldwell Kirk was driving Harrison when Harrison shot and killed spectator Brian Cole in a messy gang-related shooting. Caldwell argued that his life sentence was too severe and should be shortened to reflect his role in the drive-by shooting.
The members are required by law to hold two meetings each year, and their next meeting is scheduled for 13-14. December.
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