Thursday, 16 December 2010

SBS: Texas: Jose Herrera

Chris Paschenko : December 16, 2010
LEAGUE CITY — After reviewing evidence that prompted the state to accuse a father of killing his only son, a defense expert testified Wednesday the fractures and bruises occurred after the infant died.
During seven days of testimony, prosecutors and defense attorneys have disagreed whether cardiopulmonary resuscitation could have caused 14 rib and spine fractures, bruising, hemorrhages, abrasions and blood in the boy’s abdomen.
Jose Isaias Herrera, 20, was charged with injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, stemming from the Oct. 27, 2008, death of 6-week-old Jose Herrera Jr.
The boy, called Baby Jose at trial, was found dead, face down in a crib in his parents’ League City town home.Evidence revealed Herrera, who has yet to testify, performed CPR on the child’s body after it was cold and rigor mortis had begun.
Prosecutors called three medical examiners, two from Galveston County and another from Bexar County, who all testified the child was alive when the injuries occurred.
They didn’t all agree about whether the child had been shaken or whether the cause of death was blunt-force trauma.
Dr. Thomas Young, a former medical examiner in Kansas City, Mo., used some of the same evidence presented at trial, autopsy photographs and specimen slides, to form his opinion.
Evidence Of Healing?
The state’s experts testified they found evidence of healing, including in a rib that was broken possibly two weeks before death.
The state also showed the jury photographs of blood around the fractured spine and ribs as evidence of blood flow when the injuries were inflicted.
Young disagreed, saying cardiopulmonary resuscitation caused the fractures and the movement of a small amount of blood behind the skin and in the child’s eyes. This could have been confused with tissue hemorrhage, he said.
“Hemorrhagic lividity is not trauma,” Young said. “This is something that happens after death.”
Young agreed with Galveston County Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Stephen Pustilnik, that the child didn’t die from shaken baby syndrome.
Galveston County Deputy Medical Examiner Nobby C. Mambo, who did most of the autopsy, told the jury in Judge Lonnie Cox’s 56th District Court in Galveston on Tuesday that he believed the child had been shaken violently.
Blood Settled After Death
Blood in the boy’s eyes also was hemorrhagic lividity — blood settled after death, Young said.
“Due to the effect of gravity on blood and blood cells after death, they settle so much in some areas,” Young said. “Blood vessels are engorged and leak a little bit, then you get these areas that look like hemorrhage.”
In cardiopulmonary resuscitation after death, the oozing of blood is expected, Young said.
Young said he would expected more blood loss had the child been alive when the injuries occurred.
Mambo reported finding about 10 percent of the boy’s blood in the abdomen and nine grams of blood clot.
“If you have injuries sufficient to break blood vessels in the abdomen, yet only a small amount of blood-volume loss, that’s consistent with postmortem and CPR,” Young said.
Young said he would have ruled the child’s death a case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He said he would have listed the death as undetermined.
Bexar County Medical Examiner Randall E. Frost, who testified for the state, said he also would have listed the death as undetermined.
Defendant Had Temper?
Herrera’s mother, Irasena Herrera, testified Wednesday. She was the first defense witnesses called after the state rested late Tuesday afternoon.
Prosecutors portrayed the defendant as a hot-tempered man who didn’t believe the baby was his and who didn’t show enough remorse about the baby’s death.
Irasena Herrera testified she and her husband once each had to call police to their home after “discussions” with him.
Irasena Herrera, who came to Texas 15 years ago from Mexico, said she knew her son was devastated by losing his only son. He was quiet, “suffering in silence,” she said.
Herrera was very sad at the funeral, she said.
“There was no consoling him,” Irasena Herrera testified.
Prosecutor Donna Goode asked Herrera about recorded jail conversations with her son.
“You remember saying to your son, ‘Nobody saw you do anything?’” Goode asked. “You were trying to come up with somebody to blame for those injuries?”
No, Herrera said.
Testimony was expected to resume today. Herrera also is expected to testify during the trial, defense attorney Jeth Jones said.

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