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Petition for Release

In a petition to the governor of New South Wales, about 90 doctors and scientists are calling for the pardon and release of Kathleen Folbigg, who was convicted of killing four of her children, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

It adds that the petition — whose signatories include John Shine, the president of the Australian Academy of Science and Elizabeth Blackburn, a Nobel laureate from the University of California, San Francisco — cites recent findings that Folbigg's children carried rare genetic mutations that increased their risk of sudden death.

Folbigg was convicted in 2003 of the murder of three of her children, Sarah, Patrick, and Laura, and of manslaughter in the case of Caleb, as infants. Their deaths were initially attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, asphyxia following an epileptic seizure, or unknown causes, until a murder inquiry was opened, the Guardian adds.

But, as the New York Times notes, recent genetic analyses have found that Folbigg and two of her children carried rare genetic mutations in the CALM2 gene, which have been linked to cardiac arrest and sudden death in childhood. The two other children, it adds, were found to also have rare genetic variants, which have been linked to lethal epileptic seizures.

It's in part on this basis that the deaths could have been due to natural causes, the Herald says, that the petition calls for Folbigg's release.