Speaking outside court after Ann Pettway pleaded not guilty to a kidnapping charge, attorney Robert Baum said it was an entirely different case if Pettway did not take the child from the hospital.
"We don't deny she raised her," Baum said. "The question is whether she was kidnapping her or whether the baby was given to her."
Pettway has been held without bail since she was arrested in January. She was charged with kidnapping Carlina White from Harlem Hospital in August 1987. White is now 23 years old. The FBI has said in court papers that the Raleigh, N.C., woman took the baby after her own efforts at childbearing failed.
Ann Pettway was asked by a federal judge in Manhattan if she was pleading not guilty to a kidnapping charge during her arraignment on an indictment returned last week. She firmly responded, "Yes, sir."
Baum said the defense team was trying to locate a woman who five witnesses claimed at the time of the kidnapping had been wandering around the hospital in a nurse's outfit. He said police accepted an alibi the woman offered based on the time it was believed the child disappeared, but it was possible that the time of the kidnapping was not accurate.
He said defense lawyers also hope soon to speak with Carlina now that she has returned to Atlanta after a reunion for several days last month with her biological mother.
Baum has said that his client told child welfare officials in Connecticut in 2005 that she was not the mother and that the baby was given to her by a drug addicted mother who could not raise her.
White was known at the time as Nejdra Nance. Then 17, she was five months pregnant and unable to obtain prenatal care because her birth certificate had been altered.
Baum said the defense had spoken with about 15 members of the faculty at the Bridgeport, Conn., grade school Carlina attended, finding that Carlina was considered well dressed and well taken care of during those years.
"Ms. Pettway was a good mother," he said. "Carlina was a happy child."
Carlina's biological mother, Joy White, emerged from court Thursday in tears, surrounded by family and friends. One of her supporters shouted outside court of Pettway's plea: "She should be ashamed of herself!"
But another supporter immediately added: "That's all right. There might have been others involved."