Judge Upholds Michelle Kehoe's Murder Conviction for Killing Son

By Vanessa Miller, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa - A Coralville woman who killed her 2-year-old son and tried to kill her 7-year-old son has lost an appeal of her conviction, meaning her mandatory life sentence in prison will stand.

Michelle Kehoe, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but was found to have had the mentally capacity to know right from wrong at the time of the crime, appealed her convictions of first-degree murder, attempted murder and child endangerment causing serious injury on allegations that her counsel was ineffective.

She argued in her appeal that her attorneys should have requested a jury instruction outlining the consequences of a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict, and they should have objected to a jury instruction on the attempted murder charge.

She also wanted her attorneys to argue the constitutionality of the section of the Iowa Code that defines the legal standard for an insanity defense.

Appellate Court Judge Bruce B. Zager wrote in his ruling upholding Kehoe's conviction that her attorneys were not ineffective by failing to elaborate on the consequences of a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict, citing a Supreme Court ruling that rejected the argument that an instruction should be given because a jury's lack of understanding "might result in a decision to find the defendant guilty instead of risking the defendant's release into the community."

Zager also wrote in his ruling that the Iowa Code is not unconstitutional and in violation of cruel and unusual punishment clauses in Kehoe's case, and in light of her insanity plea, asserting that she was punished for first-degree murder, not for her "status."

Kehoe was sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder charge, 25 years for the attempted murder charge and 10 years for child endangerment causing serious injury.

According to authorities, Kehoe slashed the throats of her sons, Seth, 2, and Sean, 7, with a hunting knife on Oct. 26, 2008. Seth died from two deep wounds to his neck, but Sean survived to tell police that his mother drove him and his brother to a remote area near Littleton in Buchanan County and cut him.
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