Supreme Court to review Tyler case

The Iowa Supreme Court will review the case of the woman convicted of drowning her newborn son in a Fort Dodge hotel room in 2011.

A jury found Hillary Tyler guilty of second-degree murder in February 2013.

Tyler’s case is one of three that was granted further review.

“They could make a decision on the case based on the briefs that are submitted, or they could request oral argument, or they could request further briefing on a particular issue that they want more information about,” First Assistant Webster County Attorney Jennifer Benson said.

There is no specific timeline for the Iowa Supreme Court to rule on the case.

“This could be decided relatively quickly, or they could take up to a year to decide,” Benson said.

The Webster County attorney’s office will be notified if the Supreme Court sets the case for oral argument or makes a decision, she said.

The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled June 11 that Tyler, who was 32 when she was convicted in Webster County District Court, is entitled to a new trial because a medical examiner should not have been allowed to testify that the cause of the baby’s death was drowning.

The court said that conclusion was based on Tyler’s confession and not his medical expertise.

During her initial interview with law enforcement, Tyler said the baby didn’t move or make sounds after she gave birth, and she immediately put him in the trash, according to a Messenger account of the trial.

In a later interview, she told officers the baby had moved and cried. Tyler said she put the baby in the bathtub, face down, and filled the tub with enough water to drown him. She said she later put the baby in the trash can and left the hotel.

At Tyler’s trial, the defense argued that her statements about drowning the baby were coerced.

Tyler, who was formerly of Mulhall, Oklahoma, had been temporarily working in Fort Dodge when she became pregnant with boyfriend Rodney Cyphers’ baby. On Sept. 19, 2011, Tyler, who had denied being pregnant and concealed the pregnancy from Cyphers and others, gave birth to the baby boy in a room at the Super 8 Hotel.

Hotel staff found blood in Tyler’s room the next day and contacted law enforcement officers; Tyler was subsequently arrested.

Maria Ruhtenberg, a public defender who represented Tyler in the appeal, told The Associated Press that the Appeals Court ruling was the first of its kind in Iowa. The ruling should prevent medical examiners from “becoming an arm of the police rather than a scientific expert testifying what the medical issues are,” she said.