Calif. mom who drowned daughter no longer deemed insane, released from jail

Jennifer Bigham
CBS Sacramento

(CBS) PATTERSON, Calif. - Jennifer Bigham, a mother found to be insane when she drowned her young daughter three years ago, is now deemed sane and a judge ordered her release from jail Tuesday, CBS Sacramento reports.

Nearly three years to the day she killed her little girl, Bigham broke into a big smile walking out of jail, according to the station.

Bigham admitted to drowning her 3-year-old daughter in a bathtub in January 2010 in Patterson, Calif. Relatives found the toddler unconscious and Bigham locked in a bedroom with self-inflicted stab wounds.

The Stanislaus County DA's office says Bigham underwent psychiatric evaluations at the time of her arrest and the judge ruled her not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

Legal experts tell CBS Sacramento the case is extremely unusual. Bigham, now 26, could have been sent to a mental health facility after her insanity verdict. It's what experts say usually happens in cases like these. Instead, she spent the last three years in jail.

CBS Sacramento reports the same doctors who believed Bigham was insane at the time of her toddler's death re-examined her and testified Tuesday that her sanity is restored. But prosecutors argued there isn't enough evidence to support that claim, and say she is still a danger to society. The judge disagreed with their argument and released her immediately.

Bigham can't be re-tried for murder because of double jeopardy laws.

Prosecutors plan to appeal the release, arguing the judge didn't follow proper procedure in reaching the decision, CBS Sacramento reports. It's a process that could take months.