COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A former Muskingum University student convicted of murdering her newborn baby in her sorority house will get a new sentencing hearing, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered on Thursday.

In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Emile Weaver, who was 21 years old when a Muskingum County judge sentenced her to life in prison without parole, was inadequately represented by defense attorneys during her murder trial in 2016, sending her sentencing determination back to a new Muskingum County judge for reconsideration.

Weaver’s counsel, the court determined, failed to explain that neonaticide — the killing of an infant within 24 hours of birth — is “not considered a premeditated act” but rather an act “within the context of extreme panic.”

“Not only did the trial court misunderstand the evidence pertaining to neonaticide and pregnancy-negation syndrome, but it demonstrated a willful refusal to consider such evidence,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wrote in her opinion.

Weaver gave birth on April 22, 2015, after consistently denying her pregnancy, court records indicate. She delivered the baby into a toilet, and later in the day, two of her sorority sisters discovered the baby in a trash bag next to the Delta Gamma Theta sorority house in New Concord.

Prosecutors argued that the child died from asphyxiation after Weaver placed her in a plastic trash bag. At her trial, Weaver testified that she had been in denial about her pregnancy and thought the baby was dead before she placed it in the trash bag.

After a jury convicted Weaver in May 2016 of aggravated murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence, Judge Mark Fleegle sentenced her to life in prison without the possibly of parole.

Weaver petitioned the court for postconviction relief in May 2021, arguing that she may have received a less severe punishment had her lawyers accurately described neonaticide.

Writing for the majority, O’Connor said Fleegle and defense attorneys demonstrated an “arbitrary disregard” of the “uncontradicted expert opinion” provided by a doctor during the trial. The doctor, according to court records, said Weaver matched the criteria for pregnancy-negation syndrome, a clinical syndrome that elevates the risk for neonaticide.

“During the birthing experience, a woman with pregnancy-negation syndrome will experience a dissociative state in which she feels that she lacks control over her behavior and as if she is just an observer of the events passing before her, not a participant,” the court wrote in summarizing the doctor’s testimony.

The Supreme Court’s decision reversed the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruling, which dismissed Weaver’s claims that her counsel was ineffective. Justices Michael P. Donnelly, Melody Stewart and Jennifer Brunner joined O’Connor’s majority opinion for the court.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice R. Patrick DeWine argued that Weaver’s defense at trial was that her baby died of natural causes. Incorporating the pregnancy-negation syndrome argument into the equation, he said, undermines the argument that she did not kill the baby.