A Chambersburg man accused of shaking his infant daughter until she suffered brain injury last October told police that he was always "very delicate" with his children.
A jury watched a video Tuesday of Jamel Lee Billups, 32, being interviewed by a detective on the day his daughter was flown to Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Chambersburg police Detective William Frisby Jr., who conducted the interview, was the last witness to testify Tuesday in the Billups trial. The prosecution has now called all its witnesses, and the defense is expected to begin presenting its case this morning.
"I promise I won't use any big words or mention any medical lingo," Frisby said to the jury as he approached the witness stand.
In that respect, his testimony was an exception. The other two witnesses heard Tuesday were both doctors who discussed Leiana Trina Billups' brain damage and other physical problems in great detail.
Frisby said he was called in to interview Billups on Oct. 19, 2009 after Chambersburg Hospital notified police about the baby's injuries. The taped interview was played for the jury.
In the video, Billups told Frisby that his daughter had been acting healthy all day, until the afternoon when she awoke from her nap crying. He described her as "tensed up" and arching her back, and said she didn't seem to be breathing normally.
"It just wasn't right," he said in the video.
Using a doll to demonstrate, Billups showed Frisby how he picked up and held his daughter after she began crying. He also re-enacted how he tried to get a response from her using what he called a "wake-up tap" on her face.
"That's the most trauma to the head that I did today, or that I would do to her," he said in the video.
During the interview, Billups described the way he handles his children as "very delicate."
"I love both my kids very much," he said.
Defense attorney Christopher Basner asked Frisby during cross examination if he would agree that Billup's account of the Oct. 19, 2009 has remained consistent. Frisby said he agreed.
Dr. Mark Dias, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, was the first witness to testify Tuesday. He told the jury that, based on his expert opinion, the baby suffered permanent brain damage as the result of being shaken violently.
He said possible effects of the baby's brain damage include lasting vision problems, stiffness and difficulty moving her limbs, mental retardation and cognitive impairment.
"We don't know the extent, but I can virtually guarantee you that she will have some problems," Dias said.
According to testimony, testing indicated that Billups' daughter suffered 16 rib fractures between four and six weeks prior to suffering head injury, brain hemorrhaging and extensive retinal bleeding consistent with a shaking event
Billups is charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. His defense team contends that the infant's brain bleeding and other problems were the result of a somewhat rare type of stroke called cerebral venous thrombosis.
In his testimony, Dias used a traffic analogy to explain the workings of blood vessels in the head. He compared clotting, also called thrombosis, to car wrecks that disrupt the flow of traffic.
Dias testified that, in his experience and according to the literature he has read on the matter, there is no evidence that CVT "causes a catastrophic loss of consciousness and disorderly breathing," he said.
During cross examination, defense attorney Mark Freeman referred to a scholarly article written by another doctor who contends that the level of force required to cause retinal bleeding by shaking is "biomechanically improbable."
Dias said he disagreed with the statement, and that "a minority of people" in his field would agree with it.
"You're picking one person's point of view, which is fine," Dias said to the lawyer. "That's your job."
The doctor said tests for thrombosis were performed on the baby weeks after she was first brought to the hospital. "Not only did we find no evidence (of thrombosis), we also found evidence of what we would expect with abusive head trauma," Dias said.
At one point during his the cross examination, Freeman asked Dias if he was a radiologist.
"No, I'm a neurosurgeon," Dias replied.
Dr. Arabinda Choudhary, director of pediatric neuroradiology at Hershey, also testified Tuesday that the baby had blood on her brain and retinal hemorrhages, as well as apparent brain swelling and bruising.
He showed the jury MRI images that he said showed Leiana's damaged brain. The blue and white cross-sectional views of the baby's head showed noticeable differences between the left and right sides.
He said that "based on (his) training and experience," the was "no evidence of thrombosis" in the baby's scans. He showed the jury images of a normal adult brain alongside images of the same brain with thrombosis, and explained the differences.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sulcove said she will formally rest her case against Billups first thing today. The defense is expected to call its first expert witness, a doctor, about 9 a.m