Thursday, 21 April 2011

SBS: OHIO: Tiffani Calise trial experts' evidence

Ed Meyer 
An expert in brain injuries has testified that the forces created by a slip and fall in a bathtub were strong enough to cause the injuries that took the life of toddler Aaliyah Ali.
A Summit County judge now will decide whether to admit that testimony in the murder trial of Aaliyah's 20-year-old baby sitter, Tiffani D. Calise.
The defense expert, John D. Lloyd, a senior researcher in traumatic brain injuries at James A. Haley Veterans Administration Hospital in Tampa, Fla., testified for more than two hours Monday morning before Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty.
Citing findings from a laboratory experiment repeated 30 times, using a mannequin similar in size and weight to the 33-inch-tall toddler, Lloyd told the court that Calise's claims of how the head injuries occurred were scientifically plausible.
Lloyd, 41, has a doctorate from Loughborough University in central England. He testified that his specialty is in biomechanics — the science that determines whether certain mechanical forces are sufficient to cause injury. Lloyd told the judge his experiments involved three scenarios of the mannequin falling in a real bathtub — from a standing position, from a position of crawling out of the tub and from the top edge of the tub.
He said he even put a pair of toy roller skates on the mannequin ''to simulate the feet slipping out from under the body.''
McCarty's decision is expected in about two weeks.
The judge gave prosecutors one week to submit a written response to Lloyd's testimony, and five additional days for Calise's lawyers, William T.Whitaker and Donald R. Hicks, to respond.
Calise is to go to trial June 6. She is charged with murder, involuntary manslaughter and two counts of felony child endangering.
She told sheriff's deputies and family members, that she was caring for her own daughter and Aaliyah on the night of Aug. 9 at her Mayfair Road apartment in Green. After giving Aaliyah a bath, Calise said, she momentarily left the child alone in a nearly empty tub to retrieve a towel. Calise said she heard a thud and returned to find Aaliyah unconscious. The child was taken to Akron Children's Hospital and died two days later.
According to an autopsy by the Summit County Medical Examiner's Office, Aaliyah's death was ruled a homicide from ''complications of blunt impact(s) to the head.''
Deputy Medical Examiner Dorothy E. Dean wrote in her report that Aaliyah was ''assaulted by another person(s),'' and that she had ''severe injuries to her brain that she sustained during the assault.''
Dean's testimony is expected to form part of the foundation of the state's case.
Another important prosecution witness, Dr. R. Daryl Steiner, director of the child abuse center at Children's Hospital, is expected to testify that Aaliyah was a victim of shaken baby syndrome.
Calise's lawyers hope Lloyd will be able to rebut those findings to create reasonable doubt in the state's theory.
Assistant Prosecutor Gregory Peacock spent much of Monday morning trying to cast suspicion on Lloyd as an expert witness.
Lloyd said he has testified as a court-certified expert witness in only one other case, in Georgia, and that he conducted his experiments with a childlike mannequin used by state agencies in the testing of injuries from auto crashes.
''The principles [of biomechanics] are the same,'' Lloyd said, regardless of whether the head injuries were caused by auto crashes or football injuries, or whether the victim was an adult or child.
Lloyd also said his tests were conducted in a 400-square-foot laboratory in his home near Tampa.
''It's a fairly extensive testing facility,'' Lloyd told the court.
After the proceedings, Whitaker said Lloyd could not answer specific questions about the case because of the pending trial.
Calise has been held at the county jail in lieu of a $500,000 10 percent cash bond since her Aug. 11 arrest.

Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or


  1. i will be astounded if she gets away with this. she should still be charged regardless. if she left the baby alone in the bathtub its still her fault the baby is dead.

  2. Life in prison for a horrific accident? Even admitted killers can get less. The perfect person would never turn their back on a child but it does happen. Soon we will all be hearing of the parents who forget their kids are in the car and they will be dying from the heat. So lets try to see punishment fit the crime.

  3. I would like to share this recent link
    It explains the triad diagnosis and how the justice system is slow in catching up with new findings in science. SBS is very involved and I hope to help in educating people to the truth. Child abuse does happen and is deplorable but it does not happen in 100% of these cases as Dr. Steiner would dictate.