ORLANDO, Fla. — A woman sentenced in Orange County to 20 years in prison after the 2008 death of a friend’s baby in her care was released from prison early this week after a campaign by the Innocence Project of Florida.

  • Amanda Brumfield released after more than 8 years in prison
  • State reduced her sentence but maintains Brumfield is guilty
  • Innocence Project of Florida says baby's death was accident

Former babysitter Amanda Brumfield, 41, served 8½ years for a “wrongful incarceration for a crime that was not even a crime,” said the Innocence Project of Florida, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit dedicated to releasing wrongly convicted inmates.

The nonprofit is now focused on lobbying the State Board of Executive Clemency in hopes of winning a full pardon for Brumfield.

Brumfield was released from Hernando Correctional Institution near Brooksville on Thursday. State records say her new address in Malvern, Arkansas.

An Orange County jury in 2011 convicted Brumfield of aggravated manslaughter for the death of a 1-year-old girl she was babysitting for a friend at the friend’s apartment in October 2008.

The case drew national attention partly because Brumfield’s father is actor Billy Bob Thornton.

Brumfield testified the baby fell from a playpen, hitting her head, but causing no serious injuries.

Later, Brumfield noticed the baby was limp.

“The child was not cold and she appeared to have a pulse. However, the child was not responding,” a court document said. She talked with her husband over the phone about what was going on. 

She said she put the child on the floor to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation when her husband arrived at the apartment, and he called 911 at Brumfield’s request.

The Medical Examiner later found a skull fracture and other injuries that prosecutors said was not consistent with a playpen fall.

Attorneys for the Innocence Project of Florida recently filed a motion challenging Brumfield’s conviction, alleging her trial defense attorney had been ineffective, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala said in a statement.

“We were prepared to litigate the defendant’s motion next week,” Ayala said. “However, in the interest of justice and to give the family of the infant victim closure, we agreed to let the conviction for Aggravated Manslaughter stand and amend her sentence to 10 years in prison with credit for time served.”

The agreement also requires Brumfield to stop “pressing her innocence in court,” the Innocence Project of Florida said.

“Given that even if we overturned her conviction she could face up to an additional 20 years in prison if wrongfully convicted again, she chose her freedom and rebuilding her life over that other uncertain future,” the group said. “Amanda is the 25th innocent person that IPF has helped to free, all of whom combined spent 530 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.”

The group said Brumfield’s case “is a familiar story.”

“Doctors and prosecutors took a death from a tragic but accidental fall of a child and elevated it to a criminal act,” the group said. “This course of events follows a pattern when women -- babysitters, day care workers, and even mothers -- have a child die in their care. Despite contrary evidence, the authorities assume abuse and pin that abuse on the woman who is always the last person to have been with the child before his or her demise.”

Prosecutors used “misleading, incorrect testimony to obtain” Brumfield’s conviction, the Innocence Project of Florida added. “But more importantly, there is medical and scientific evidence that stands as clear evidence of innocence and demonstrates that this is a tragedy that had no criminal genesis.”

Ayala disagreed.

“This resolution with the defendant brings finality to this matter but does not absolve Ms. Brumfield of this crime,” Ayala said. “Of most importance to my office and the victim's family is the fact that Ms. Brumfield remains guilty of the death of the infant victim.”