McDonaldDELAND -- Two doctors testified for prosecutors Tuesday they believe a 5-week-old child suffered a "severe brain injury" by being violently shaken at his Edgewater home.
It will be up to the jury to decide who did the shaking.
The crucial medical testimony was heard at the start of a trial that could send the child's father, Kevin McDonald, 32, to prison for 30 years if convicted of aggravated child abuse.
McDonald's lawyer, Greg Johnson, however, said the time frame of when the injury occurred in late March 2008 is not clear.
"It's a who-dunnit," he said. "The time frame (of the injury) includes time when the mother was alone with the child."
Prosecutors Larry Avallone and Erica Kane disagreed. They pointed out in testimony at the start of the trial that McDonald's son Eli was being watched by him on March 30, 2008, when the boy appeared "limp" and was taken to a hospital.
The child spent a week on a ventilator, suffered seizures and bleeding on the brain.
Dr. Mark Kessler, a pediatrician and medical director of the Child Protection Team at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, said McDonald told him the child had been crying when there "was a sudden change in the child's mental status, a limpness."
McDonald told authorities the child may have been hurt when he was rocked in a car seat. The doctor said symptoms of the injury the child suffered would have been seen "in seconds" after being inflicted.
Kessler said an exam of the child revealed no outward signs of head injury. The doctor reviewed brain scans in front of the jury.
Pointing to dark and light spots on the screen, he said the scans illustrated damage to the child's brain.
"This is a very concerning picture," Kessler said. "Because we're seeing blood on the surface of the brain."
The doctor said there were further signs of trauma in an exam of the child's eye retinas, another indicator of abuse.
"It's my opinion this child had been the victim of abusive head trauma," Kessler said.
The term shaken baby syndrome has fallen out of favor by some experts because it excludes the possibility of other factors in causing injury, such as blunt force trauma.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, a baby's large head in relation to body size and weak neck muscles make infants vulnerable to brain damage from violent moves back and forth.
Shaking makes the brain move back and forth inside the skull, causing bruising, swelling and bleeding, which can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
McDonald 's son, who is now 3-years-old, suffered brain damage and "verbal delay" prosecutors said.
Dr. Eric Trumble, another pediatrician at Arnold Palmer, testified the injury to the baby occurred over a short period of time, "within a couple of days" of being brought to the hospital.
Based on brain scans showing blood on the brain and other medical evidence, Trumble reached the opinion the child was a victim of violence. "There's a 95 percent chance this was a nonaccidental trauma," he said.
Kessler, in his review of the events leading to the child's hospitalization, narrowed the time frame of injury to have occurred "within seconds" of the symptoms appearing.
"The baby had been fine that weekend, when mom went to work Sunday morning," he said. "Phone calls were made that the baby was well that morning, then there was a change in his mental status Sunday afternoon.
"It's not my job to say who did it," he added. "I don't know who was in the home."
The trial is expected to finish today. Circuit Judge Margaret Hudson is presiding.
It is likely McDonald will testify in his own defense before the case goes to the jury, his lawyer told the judge.