Thursday, 21 October 2010

SBS: Child abuse theory disputed in retrial

Christine Ferretti / The Detroit News

Mount Clemens - In a second trial for a Harrison Township woman previously convicted of violently shaking her infant nephew, defense attorneys presented an alternative theory that it was a childhood stroke that left the boy blind and brain-injured, not abuse.
Julie Baumer, 34, was convicted of first-degree child abuse in 2005 on claims she violently shook six-week-old Philipp Baumer in October 2003. Philipp, now 7, has since been adopted and renamed Ben Zentz.
Baumer served four years of a 10- to 15-year sentence, but was released in December after Macomb County Circuit Court Judge James M. Biernat granted her a new trial.
The November decision followed a series of evidentiary hearings in which her new attorney, former Macomb County prosecutor Carl Marlinga, presented experts who testified that the boy's injuries were consistent with venous sinus thrombosis or a "childhood stroke," rather than shaking.
Today, both sides reiterated their theories for a Macomb County jury during closing arguments in Baumer's second trial.
Assistant Prosecutor Richard Goodman told jurors Philipp had no history of illness and was thriving until he was admitted to a hospital with "severe dehydration" in October 2003.
"He was doing fine and meeting milestones," Goodman said in his closing arguments today.
Goodman argued the medical witnesses defense produced are attempting to "disprove" shaken baby syndrome. But the facts show, he says, the child's injuries weren't consistent with the stroke condition defense is contending.
Goodman said the injuries Philipp had only occur in certain cases; automobile accidents, high falls and abuse. The first two don't apply here, he said.
"Accept only what the facts show you," he said. "That's that the defendant is guilty of child abuse."
But Marlinga argued the prosecutions case is "highly circumstantial" and the timeline for when the abuse allegedly occurred doesn't add up.
Marlinga characterized Baumer as a "loving person," who had no motive to injure her nephew. Philipp had always been a sickly child, Marlinga said, and the boy had no visible injuries when he arrived at the hospital that October.
"Sometimes the evidence is just not there," Marlinga said.
Prosecutors called about 10 witnesses during the trial that's spanned more than two weeks. Among the witnesses were doctors and the child's birth and adoptive mothers. Defense has called six doctors, Baumer and about 10 character and fact witnesses.
Marlinga made a motion today asking the judge to render a directed verdict.
A directed verdict would bypass a jury verdict and instead let the judge decide.
Biernat took the request under advisement. If a guilty verdict is rendered by the jury Biernat can override their decision.
If Baumer is convicted, she will return to prison to finish out the rest of her term.
Closing statements are expected to resume tomorrow.

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