Friday, 6 May 2011

SBS: South Dakota: charges against Two Bulls dropped with conflicting medical evidence

May. 3, 2011  : John Hult
A man accused of killing his 14-month-old stepson will not stand trial for murder or manslaughter charges after a judge's ruling this week that questioned the science behind the accusations.

Dustin Samuel Two Bulls, Sr., 22, has been in jail awaiting trial on second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter charges since Deryun Wilson was rushed to Avera McKennan Hospital one year ago with brain hemorrhages that eventually took his life.

Two Bulls still faces as much as 15 years in prison on an unrelated fourth-degree rape charge, but it now is unlikely that anyone will stand trial for the child's death.
"This is still a homicide," Deputy State's Attorney Randy Sample said. "I just can't prove who did it."

Two Bulls' lawyers did not return calls for comment Monday. In a series of motions hearings in February and March, however, they called experts to question the validity of the prosecution's version of events, which was premised on the notion that the baby died of abusive head trauma, sometimes referred to as shaken baby syndrome, at the hands of Two Bulls.
Experts from both sides disagreed on whether shaking alone could result in the type of injuries that caused Wilson's death.

Minnehaha County Coroner Kenneth Snell testified that a shaking death was possible, but he said there is "no way to tell" how long a child with a head injury still could be mobile. He cited the case of a child who appeared lucid after a fall from monkey bars but later died.

Dr. Janice Ophoven, an expert hired by the defense, testified that investigators should look back over the previous three days when attempting to pinpoint the underlying injury behind a death from abusive head trauma. She claimed that shaken baby syndrome is a scientifically unsound diagnosis.
Two Bulls was alone with Wilson for only about 20 minutes in the days leading up to the child's death May 20, Sample said, and several other people had contact with the child for short periods of time.

Two Bulls told Wilson's mother that the child had fallen down some steps when she came home May 19 to discover the injuries.
"We only had a very short window of time in which this individual had the child," Sample said.

In his decision about the scientific testimony, Judge Joseph Neiles wrote that the science alone cannot prove Wilson was murdered.

"Dr. Snell's testimony was that he would not diagnose (shaken baby syndrome) unless there was either a witness to the act or a confession to the act, in addition to the physical findings," Neiles wrote.
Complicating matters further was the judge's finding Monday that Two Bulls had asked for and been denied a lawyer during an interview after his arrest. That decision threw out incriminating statements he had made to detectives.

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