A lawyer yesterday threw a strikingly new light on a case that saw two parents convicted of the manslaughter of their baby girl.

William Taylor QC pointed to the mother's mental illness and hinted that had the parents been represented separately and not by the same lawyer, the outcome might have been different.

His criticisms were aimed at Mark Pettingill, the last of a chain of lawyers to represent dentist Dr. Amenemhat Waset Amen-Re Tamerry - formerly known as Clark Godwin - and his wife Maatkai Hatsheput Tamerry.

Dr. Tamerry, 51, was convicted three years ago and sentenced to five years in jail - a term he's still serving. Mrs. Tamerry, 39, of Club Road, Hamilton Parish, was imprisoned for one year, a sentence she has since completed.

Their 10-month-old daughter A'maya died on March 1, 2001; it was found she had not been provided with adequate nutrition.

In an appeal against Dr. Tamerry's conviction, Mr. Taylor yesterday pointed to a miscarriage of justice and claimed the couple was given bad legal advice.

Instead of properly preparing the case and advising the pair of a possible conflict of interest (in representing both), Mr. Pettingill went ahead to trial inadequately prepared and acted against his clients' instructions, Mr. Taylor said.

"Dr. Tamerry's interests weren't protected and the trial was unfair," he told the Court of Appeal panel of Justices Edward Zacca, Sir Murray Stuart-Smith and Gerald Nazareth.

Effectively, he continued, Dr. Tamerry's defence wasn't put to the jury because Mr. Pettingill also did not allow him to testify.

"Mr. Pettingill told his clients that this was an emotional case and he did not intend to call Dr. Tamerry [to testify]," the QC said. "Mrs. Tamerry was to give evidence for both and that was bad advice and in defiance of Dr. Tamerry's instructions that he wished to give evidence."

Mr. Taylor also argued that Mr. Pettingill had "owed due diligence and patently failed to do so" by not recording statements separately from the two clients in preparing his case. That course of action, he suggested, would have revealed to Mr. Pettingill that Mrs. Tamerry (formerly Regina Godwin) was suffering mental illness from the birth of A'maya until the trial. Her illness was the reason for a number of adjournments which, Mr. Taylor said, should have helped alert Mr. Pettingill to his client's mental state and competence to stand trial.

Mr. Pettingill, it was also claimed, "must have had" psychiatric reports showing Mrs. Tamerry's mental illness which he ought to have acted on.

Such information, Mr. Taylor stressed, would have led him to advise the two to consider separate representation because of the effect of it on their defences.

It might have happened that Dr. Tamerry's defence would have been to put the blame on his wife for the little girl's death, Mr. Taylor continued, because she was the primary caregiver while he was busy with his dental practice and its enlargement.

State of mind

At the same time, Mrs. Tamerry would likely have had a defence based on her state of mind in the time leading up to her daughter's death, he said.

"No competent counsel could not have been aware of Mrs. Tamerry's condition on January 5, 2004 when Mr. Pettingill first appeared for the Tamerrys," added Nigel Rumfitt QC for Mrs. Tamerry.

Other lapses alleged against Mr. Pettingill in Mr. Taylor's grounds of appeal were that he took "scant or no instructions" from his clients, "relied on a caution statement without taking instructions about the statement itself or the circumstances surrounding it, took no instructions on what witnesses said in their witness statements" and "failed to challenge disputed evidence."

Mr. Pettingill is expected to respond later during the appeal.

The trial in 2004 had heard that, instead of providing the baby girl with balanced nutrition and proper medical care, the couple relied on Irish Sea Moss in conformity to their vegetarian lifestyle.

She lost weight dramatically over the last months of her life and died suffering from major organic deterioration.

Director of Public Prosecutions Vinette Graham-Allen is appearing for the Crown while Patricia Harvey is assisting Mr. Taylor and Craig Attridge is assisting Mr. Rumfitt. The appeal continues.