Mother, who could soon become the first Australian woman on death row in the US, is dealt another devastating blow ahead of her trial for allegedly murdering her daughter with the help of detective husband
- The Australian mother’s murder trial has been delayed by 18 months in the US
- Woman charged with murder of seven-year-old daughter
- Can be executed for first degree murder
An Adelaide mother who faces the grim prospect of becoming the first Australian woman on death row in the US has had her trial postponed for 18 months after already serving five years in prison.
Lisa Marie Cunningham, 48, is charged with the first-degree murder of her seven-year-old daughter Sanaa in her adopted hometown of Phoenix, the capital of the southwestern US state of Arizona.
If she and her co-defendant husband Germayne, 43, who is a former Arizona robbery squad detective, are convicted, they could both face the death penalty.
After appearing before Judge Geoffrey Fish, Ms Cunningham was told her trial, which was due to begin last week in Phoenix’s Maricopa County Superior Court, has been postponed until at least September next year.
‘I am crying. I have some serious health problems because of the conditions of detention and treatment,” said a devastated Cunningham The Adelaide Advertiser after the decision.
Australian mother Lisa Marie Cunningham (pictured) is being executed over the death of her seven-year-old daughter in 2017
Ms Cunningham, who is a former prison warden, spoke from the maximum security wing of the Estrella Women’s Jail, located in the desert near Phoenix.
She said the delay in the trial anguished her, but the judge explained that there was no choice but to postpone her trial as the Covid pandemic had caused a backlog of cases.
“(The judge) stated that several cases should come before mine because they are older… and mine going earlier is unfair,” she said.
“I have not fully processed or accepted the 19 month delay in this place. I did not agree with the delay. My attorney (attorney) asked if I was okay with it in court.
“I did not file the postponement. I had no choice.’
Cunningham’s attorney, Eric Kessler, said Ms. Cunningham did a pretty good job under the circumstances.
“She’s very active in her defense and is pretty smart,” he said.
Australian consular assistance is being provided to Ms Cunningham and the Australian Government has expressed its opposition to the death penalty.
Ms Cunningham and her husband’s trial was originally scheduled for September 2020 but was also delayed by the pandemic.
Sanaa had more than 60 scars with 100 cuts and bruises, as well as several sores and abscesses when she died at Phoenix Children’s Hospital in February 2017.
Prosecutors allege that Sanaad, who suffered from severe schizophrenia and other medical conditions, died of a sepsis infection from head and foot wounds related to her living conditions.
Ms Cunningham claims she is the victim of a miscarriage of justice and was framed by authorities to avoid a costly civil trial over the girl’s death.
Lisa-Marie Cunningham (pictured with Sanaa at right and another child) has maintained she and her husband are innocent in the death of her child
Ms. Cunningham’s 43-year-old American husband, Germayne, is a former Phoenix robbery squad detective who is now on trial with her for first-degree murder
She says Saana died of pneumonia because the couple followed faulty medical advice.
Mrs. Cunningham has two children from her first marriage, including Sanaa, as well as her husband, and the couple have two more children of their own.
The prosecution alleges that the pair restrained Sanaa by tying her up so she could not expel fluid from her lungs, leading to her death.
Police claim they found incriminating texts between the couple, including one from December 2016 that describes how the girl was zip-tied to a water container to put other children to sleep.
Cunningham claimed the texts were forged and not on her phone the day Sanaa died, months later.
A post-mortem found Sanaa’s death to be “indeterminate” rather than murder.