Lucia de Berk was born on September 22, 1961, in The Hague, Netherlands and is also known as Lucia de B., and Lucy de B. She was a Dutch licensed pediatric nurse that was wrongfully convicted of murdering four patients under her care and for attempting to kill three other patients. Lucia was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003 with no parole according to the Dutch law.
There was an appeal in 2004 which resulted in Lucia being convicted of seven murders and three attempted murders. Investigative reporter Peter R. de Vries questioned her murders as her conviction became controversial between scientists and the media.
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands reopened Lucia"s case in October 2008 because there were new facts that were uncovered resulting in Lucia"s release from prison. Lucia"s case was retried, and she was exonerated in April 2010.
A baby named Amber died unexpectedly on September 4, 2001, at the Juliana Kinderziekenhuis in The Hague. Officials started to scrutinize earlier deaths that were caused from cardiopulmonary resuscitations. It was discovered that there were nine prior incidents from September 2000 to September 2001 that were thought of incidents but was considered suspicious after baby Amber died. Lucia de Berk was working while those incidents happened and she was in charge of the patients care and giving them their medications. The Juliana Kinderziekenhuis Hospital in The Hague press charges against Lucia De Berk.
Lucia De Berk was sentenced to life imprisonment on March 24, 2003, for murdering four patients and for attempting to kill three other patients. She was charged with cases that did not die from natural causes according to medical examiners.
Lucia De Berk appeal her case on June 18, 2004, but her convictions in the previous trial were upheld. There was proof that Lucia poisoned two patients. She committed her murders in the three hospitals she worked in which was the Juliana Child Hospital, the Red Cross Hospital, and the Leyenburg Hospital. The judge concluded that Lucia De Berk was present during the other deaths that could not be medically explained and she was the cause of the unexplained deaths. She also received detention with coerced psychiatric treatment as an addition to her life sentence in 2004. The state criminal psychological unit did not find that she had any sort of mental illness.
The Netherlands Supreme Court ruled that it is not correct to combine life imprisonment and psychiatric detention on March 14, 2006. The Supreme Court then gave the case back to the Court in Amsterdam. Lucia suffered a stroke a few days later and was admitted the Scheveningen prison hospital. The Court of Appeal in Amsterdam sentenced Lucia De Berk on July 13, 2006, to life imprisonment without detention in psychiatric care.
Richard D. Gill petitioned to reopen Lucia de Berk case and received over 1300 people signatures on the petition. The signatures were presented to the Minister of Justice, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, and to the State Secretary of Justice, Nebahat Albayrak on November 2, 2007.
Ton Derksen submitted his research along with Metta de Noo"s research on Lucia De Berk case to Posthumus II Commission. They mentioned that the case was looked at with "tunnel vision" and the investigators/medical team misunderstood scientific evidence. Ton said that the medical team who said the victim"s death was not natural was not given all medical information related to the victim. He also mentioned that the Strasbourg analysis and statistical data were incorrect resulting in an invalid conclusion.
The commission said on October 19, 2006, that they would consider the details and this is one of the few cases that they will do that for. They recruited three men to consider three things when looking/investigating the crime. The three things were:
Were there any unexplained deaths in the hospital when Lucia De Berk was not in the hospital that the public prosecutor does not know about?
Did the expert witnesses receive all relevant information that was available at that time?
Did scientific knowledge differ now from the date it was previously examined regarding the digoxin level in a human and could that cause a false accusation?
The commission requested in October 2007 for the case to be reopened because it was severely looked at by tunnel vision from the start. The main reason is that the same individuals that were chosen from the hospital authorities were not selected because of relevant expertise which should have been necessary. Those individuals that
helped with the internal investigation in the hospital also advised/helped police, and they were also independent scientific experts for the case who appeared in court.
Lucia De Berk was released on April 2, 2008, for three months because the last victim"s death from natural causes could not be ruled out.
The Advocate-General of the Supreme Court, G. Knigge requested for the Supreme Court Lucia De Berk case to be reopened on June 17, 2008. The court knew that there was new facts and granted the reopening of the case on October 7, 2008. A new independent medical researcher team started that baby Amber death was a result of natural causes. An earlier toxicologist from the previous trials agreed with the new medical researcher"s findings. The former toxicologist said that the court gave them partial information about the child"s medical condition.
Lucia"s confession about what she was doing on the night the child died prove to be correct as the baby was being treated by a medical specialist and his assistant so it Lucia could not have poisoned the baby.
Lucia De Berk was free from jail while she was awaiting her new trial at the Court of Arnhem. The court granted another medical team access to two other child medical records who had also died. The court confirmed on December 9, 2009, that Amber, Achmed, and Achraf deaths were from natural causes/incidents.
Lucia De Berk appeal hearing finished on March 17, 2010, and she was the court said on April 14, 2010, that Lucia was not guilty.
"It was the new finding of allegedly very high digoxin levels in autopsy blood in a child who was under the care of Lucia de Berk that resulted in her second conviction and life sentence for murder, i.e., at the 2004 appeal hearings. Moreover, this was despite it already being known at that time that digoxin levels in autopsy blood should be expected to be far higher than blood digoxin in a living patient. Living heart cells extract digoxin from the blood, concentrating it at levels up to 1,000 times the therapeutic digoxin levels in the circulating blood. Heart cells die within minutes after death, allowing this digoxin to diffuse into the blood in the heart and in the surrounding large blood vessels - the sites from which blood is extracted by pathologists for blood chemistry analysis. Moreover, the autopsy blood did not originate from a proper blood sample but was squeezed out of a piece of gauze left inside the body after two autopsies had disturbed all the organs."
It was said on November 12, 2010, that Lucia De Berk received a substantial compensation from the Ministry of Justice.
Title: Statistics: Conviction by numbers
Author: Buchanan, Mark