A Chambersburg man was acquitted Friday of charges that he shook his 3-month-old daughter.
Jamel Lee Billups, 32, Chambersburg, mouthed a "thank you" to jurors after the verdict was read, and untucked the shirttail of his blue dress shirt.
"Thank you," he said quietly, looking upwards.
"I'm very happy," said Jacqueline Rosario, mother of the child Leiana, now 18-months-old. "He gets to come home to his kids. We'll be a family for the weekend. He hasn't seen them in 14 months."
The couple also has a 3-year-old daughter.
After hearing six days of medical testimony in Franklin County Court, the jury deliberated for two hours during lunchtime on Friday and had enough reasonable doubt they found Billups not guilty of aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Billups has maintained his innocence from the beginning, according to Rosario and Defense Attorney Christopher Basner of Newport.
Billups' defense relied on complex testimony from a medical expert and recent medical research.
Defense witness Dr. Patrick Barnes, a pediatric neuroradiologist at Stanford University, testified that Leiana suffered brain damage from health conditions that mimic child abuse.
Leiana's doctors said that her "constellation of injuries" had no other explanation than child abuse, according to Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sulcove. In her closing argument she singled out injuries to ligaments at the back of the child's neck and swelling at the back of her head.
"You've heard the old saying: If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck and swims like a duck, it must be a duck,'" Sulcove addressed the jury. "It's your job to call it what it is."
Sulcove maintained that Billups' testimony was not credible.
"He changes the facts every time he testifies," she said. "There's a bit of truth in every lie. You have to listen carefully."
Sulcove said Billups' prior conviction for robbery in New York nine years ago is evidence of his deception.
Judge Shawn Meyers instructed the jury that Billups' conviction must be used only to judge his credibility and not his innocence or guilt.
"There was a tragedy that happened on Oct. 19(, 2009); a young child suffered a stroke," said defense attorney Mark Freeman of West Conshohocken.
The girl's brain damage resulted from a rare disorder known as cerebral venous thrombosis, according to defense witnesses. The 16 fractures to her front ribs were the result of a likely deficiency of vitamin D at her birth. A severe lack of the vitamin is linked to congenital rickets, or fragile bones.
Investigators "had the blinders on" after seeing her condition, Freeman told the jury. They failed to follow up on low levels of Protein S, an indication of venous thrombosis. There were no signs of external trauma, classic signs of shaken baby syndrome.
"Sometimes you see what you're looking for," Freeman said. "The entire case is based on the presumption of trauma."
Sulcove countered: Leiana is "the one time on the planet" where venous thrombosis and bone fragility have come together. Abused children do not always have visual injuries.
Leiana, as of her last test in May could not see, will have difficulty walking and may be mentally retarded, Sulcove said.
Freeman, who specializes in elder law, appeared in his first criminal trial. Freeman said he previously researched false child abuse.
"A personal friend had almost the identical thing happen to him," Freeman said after the trial. "Child abuse is a horrible thing. Charging parents is a pretty horrible thing too. The real tragedy is they didn't have any defense at the dependency hearing."
But when Franklin County Children and Youth Department heard about Billups' defense expert Barnes, they quickly returned the two girls to Rosario, Freeman said.