10/20/2014 01:09 EDT | Updated 12/20/2014 05:59 EST

Baby M Death: Sentencing Hearing Postponed For Edmonton Mother

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EDMONTON - A sentencing hearing has been postponed for an Edmonton mother who starved and abused her two-year-old twin daughters before one of them died in hospital.

The woman, who can't be named, pleaded guilty earlier this year to manslaughter, aggravated assault and failing to provide the necessities of life.

Defence lawyer Chady Moustarah told court Monday that he has an "ethical conflict" and must withdraw from the case. He said his client has the option of asking a new lawyer to file an application to strike her guilty pleas but didn't indicate if that is her plan.

The 36-year-old woman has had three other lawyers since she was arrested in 2012. She was originally charged with second-degree murder.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Eric Macklin ordered her back in court Thursday, hopefully with another lawyer, to set a new hearing date.

In June, the woman admitted in a court document that she didn't provide her daughters with adequate food and assaulted them over a prolonged period of time. The assaults led to serious head injuries.

Paramedics called to the family's home on May 25, 2012 found the tiny twins strapped in infant car seats. They were no bigger than six-month-old babies. Skin was hanging loose from their bodies, their ribs stuck out from their chests and they were covered in scabs and bruises.

Police found their four-year-old brother was healthy and had been well cared for. The house was also stocked with food.

The smallest twin, weighing 13 pounds, spent several months on life support in hospital. After a lengthy court battle, she was taken off machines on the advice of doctors. An autopsy listed the cause of her death as starvation and head trauma.

Her surviving sister had to slowly learn and to walk and feed herself. She and her brother were placed in foster care and have since been adopted.

Their father pleaded guilty to the same charges as his wife. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

At his sentencing hearing, court heard he didn't physically injure the girls but did nothing as they suffered. He offered no explanation for the crime but said his family found it difficult adjusting to life in Canada after they immigrated from Algeria in 2008.

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