published Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Trial ahead for mom charged in attempted smothering of her child

Monica Hammers waits for her pretrial hearing in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Monday morning. Hammers trial is scheduled for April 2, 2013, where she will contest charges of attempting to smother her son Dakota with a pillow while he was at Erlanger hospital.
Monica Hammers waits for her pretrial hearing in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom Monday morning. Hammers trial is scheduled for April 2, 2013, where she will contest charges of attempting to smother her son Dakota with a pillow while he was at Erlanger hospital.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A 43-year-old mother who prosecutors say tried to smother her son in T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital faces a new trial on a lesser charge after a jury deadlocked on her case.

Monica Dawn Hammers was first charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse after a hospital observer said she saw the mother hold a pillow over her 4-year-old son's face.

Hammers went on trial on those charges in September 2012. Before the jury began to deliberate, Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman ruled there wasn't enough evidence for them to convict her of the murder charge. The judge allowed instead for jurors to consider attempted aggravated assault.

Despite deliberating over two days, jurors could not reach a verdict.

She now faces an April 2 trial on a single charge of attempted aggravated child abuse.

Hammers' attorney, Harry Christensen, and prosecutor Charlie Minor sparred Monday over what evidence and testimony will be allowed in the trial.

Minor wants to show evidence of possible patterns of medical abuse by Hammers. Her son was under observation at the hospital for digestive problems for three days when the alleged incident occurred.

Doctors who testified in the trial said there wasn't anything wrong with the boy.

During the trial, part of Christensen's defense for his client was that she and the boy's father had ongoing custody disputes and the father insinuated Hammers might be abusing the child.

Arguments and filings by both attorneys could further limit what the new jury will see. Steelman set March 11 as the next hearing date before the trial.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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