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Mother’s appeal rejected in toddler murder case

The court ejected arguments by Violet Ray that she received ineffective legal counsel

A divided appellate court Friday turned down an appeal by a Marion County woman convicted of first-degree murder in the 2008 death of one of her six adopted children.

A panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 decision, rejected arguments by Violet Ray that she received ineffective legal representation during her trial because the defense did not “engage in a highly scientific, medicolegal, battle of the experts,” as the majority opinion described her arguments. Ray was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Faith.

Prosecutors alleged that Ray caused fatal head injuries to child. Ray contended that the child fell in the family kitchen after taking a bath.

In the appeal, Ray said several experts could have offered opinions that would have countered the testimony of a state medical examiner.

But the appellate court’s majority opinion said, in part, the “decision to go with a straightforward causation defense, as opposed to a scientific ‘battle of the experts,’ was a reasonable trial strategy.”

Judge Jay Cohen dissented and said he favored sending the case back for new trial.

He wrote that the failure of defense lawyers to challenge the medical examiner’s testimony “constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.”

Ray, now 45, was sentenced to life in prison in 2012, according to Florida Department of Corrections records.

A 2012 Ocala Star-Banner story said Ray and her husband adopted six children after having a series of miscarriages. Prosecutors alleged that Ray beat Faith and then neglected to call 911, the Star-Banner reported.

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