Judge declares mistrial in case of woman accused of leaving baby in dumpster


AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Friday, Althea Johnson, the mother accused of leaving her newborn baby in a dumpster, took the stand and, after hours of jury deadlock, the judge declared a mistrial later that night.

Johnson is out of Jail Saturday morning after bonding out following the mistrial. 

The trial began Tuesday for the incident on October 25, 2017, when a homeless man who was dumpster-diving at the Mira Vista Apartments in Austin found the baby girl. The newborn baby survived. 

On the stand Friday, Johnson tearfully said that while she didn’t know what was happening at the time — that she hadn’t realized she was even pregnant — and that the worst part is not being able to remember. 

“I just know that I would never hurt my child.”

In court, Johnson admitted that she hadn’t wanted any more kids, however, saying: “I love my children. I was not financially ready to have any more children at that time. I wasn’t mentally ready to have any more children at that time. So yes, I said that I didn’t want any more kids.”

“The evidence, in this case, will show that Althea Johnson concealed her pregnancy. She didn’t want anyone to know,” said Travis County Prosecutor Kathleen Morgan in her opening statement. “In the early hours of a cold October morning, she gave birth alone in her bathroom. She knew the baby was alive. She saw her eyes open, saw her mouth open, but before she’d make a sound before she cried, Althea Johnson got one of her dresses and wrapped her up and took her outside. She made the choice to start walking, and with each step, she chose to go towards the dumpster.”

Johnson’s defense attorney, Krista Chacona, said in her opening statement that was only half of the story.

“Althea Johnson unexpectedly gave birth, because she did not know that she was pregnant,” Chacona said to the jury, continuing, “Ladies, I know. That is hard to believe. But, I expect you will hear expert testimony to tell you that not only is that possible, but it’s not as uncommon as you think.”

Thursday, the defense team for Johnson called two witnesses to testify, former roommates of Johnson, to provide evidence on her character, her role as a mother and whether they knew she was pregnant.  

Johnson was arrested and charged with second-degree felony abandonment of a child a couple of weeks after the baby was found in the dumpster. She was 27-years-old at the time of the arrest.

Johnson would have faced 20 years in prison if the jury had found her guilty of child abandonment.

Friday was Johnson’s 29th birthday.

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