Saturday, 25 June 2011

SBS: Can a Short Fall Produce the Medical Findings of Shaken Baby Syndrome?

David L. Chadwick, MD

In a large number of cases infants with the findings of shaken baby syndrome are brought for care with a history from the caretaker that the change in the baby’s condition followed a short fall from a bed, couch, chair, counter or another item of household furniture. What is the chance that this history might be true under these circumstances?

Most child abuse pediatricians would answer that question with words to the effect that the probability of a life-threatening head injury resulting from a fall of less than 4 ½ feet is remote. It is also unlikely that even a long free fall of 10-20 ft. with a serious head injury would produce the severe eye findings that are usually a part of SBS. The language about probability takes its origin from the facts that a zero probability of any event cannot be proven without an infinite number of observations, but a huge anecdotal pediatric experience of short falls supports a conclusion that they are almost always benign. In addition, it has been difficult to document the numbers of short falls that are affecting infants and toddlers so the precise expression of probability that a scientist might like is still not in hand although we are moving closer to it. In Plunkett’s videotaped case epidural hematoma was not excluded; an undescribed surgical procedure preceded death (and the autopsy) in that case.

We can now state with some confidence that the probability of a fatal injury (with SBS pathology) resulting from a short fall of an infant or toddler cannot be greater than 1 per million children aged 0-5 yrs./year, and is likely to be less than that. This is a probability estimate based on population. An estimate based on numbers of short falls would be many times as large, but varied by age. Toddlers fall from ground level at a rate of about 4 times per day, and from low elevated surfaces about every other day. Infants fall much less frequently but may fall from a low elevated surface about 4-5 times in the first year after birth(1, 2).

The probability of short fall death could even be zero, although zero can only be proved in an eternity. Published, isolated case reports of short fall deaths can be found (3-5), and most depend on the statements of caretakers. Many of these statements are incorrect (6) All have some problem with validity as do the 13 cases that make up the deaths attributed to short falls by medical examiners in 5 years in California and which provide the one-in-a-million risk figure (7). That figure can be compared with the numbers of deaths of infants and young children in California attributed to homicide that provide a rate of about 30/million young children/yr. (7)

Ultimately, a caretaker’s statement about an event that occurred in a private setting cannot be objectively confirmed or contradicted.

Rare short fall deaths may occur with epidural hematomas (8) or with subdural bleeding caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as coagulopathies or arterio-venous malformations, but these can be excluded in most cases. Pre-existing brain abnormalities may also cause confusion although they are generally easily recognized.

The most important published medical experience about the effects of childrens’ short falls can be found in about 175 published articles that we have winnowed from among about 1500 total reviewed publications that have something to do with children and injuries and falls(9). A few of the 175 articles have been quoted frequently in past forensic discussions of this topic, such as the four papers that describe 560 cases of falls occurring in hospitals (10-13) without any serious consequences, and the Plunkett article that analyzes a database of playground injuries from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (14) but does not raise the probability of a fatal short fall to 1/million young children/yr. Most of the 175 articles are not usually cited in litigated cases. In particular, the articles that describe injuries in day car settings deserve more attention

The large body of literature combined with an analysis of better injury databases now enables us to provide the quantitative estimate of less than the one in a million figure cited above.

1. Kravitz H, Driessen G, Gomberg R, Korach A. Accidental falls from elevated surfaces in infants from birth to one year of age. Pediatrics 1969;44(5):Suppl:869-76.
2. Warrington SA, Wright CM, Team AS. Accidents and resulting injuries in premobile infants: data from the ALSPAC study. Arch Dis Child 2001;85(2):104-7
3. Hall JR, Reyes HM, Horvat M, Meller JL, Stein R. The mortality of childhood falls. J Trauma 1989;29(9):1273-5.
4. Denton S, Mileusnic D. Delayed sudden death in an infant following an accidental fall: a case report with review of the literature. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2003;24(4):371-6.
5. Reiber GD. Fatal falls in childhood. How far must children fall to sustain fatal head injury? Report of cases and review of the literature. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 1993;14(3):201-7.
6. Chadwick DL, Chin S, Salerno C, Landsverk J, Kitchen L. Deaths from falls in children: how far is fatal? J Trauma 1991; 31(10):1353-5.
7. State of California DoHS. California Injury Data Online. In; 2006.
8. Schutzman SA, Barnes PD, Mantello M, Scott RM. Epidural hematomas in children. Ann Emerg Med 1993;22(3):535-41.
9. Chadwick DL, Bertocci G, Castillo E, Frasier L, Guenther E, Hansen K, et al. Annual Risk of Death Resulting From Short Falls Among Young Children: Less Than 1 in 1 Million. Pediatrics 2008;121(6):1213-1224.
10. Helfer RE, Slovis TL, Black M. Injuries resulting when small children fall out of bed. Pediatrics 1977; 60(4):533-5.
11. Levene S, Bonfield G. Accidents on hospital wards. Arch Dis Child 1991; 66(9):1047-9.
12. Lyons TJ, Oates RK. Falling out of bed: a relatively benign occurrence. Pediatrics 1993; 92(1):125-7.
13. Nimityongskul P, Anderson LD. The likelihood of injuries when children fall out of bed. J Pediatr Orthop 1987; 7(2):184-6.
14. Plunkett J. Fatal pediatric head injuries caused by short-distance falls. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2001;22(1):1-12.

SBS: New York State: Barbara Hershey appeal verdict


It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment so appealed from is unanimously modified as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice by reducing the sentence to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of 2 to 6 years and as modified the judgment is affirmed.Memorandum: Defendant appeals from a judgment convicting her upon a jury verdict of manslaughter in the second degree for recklessly causing the death of her four-month-old step-grandson. Viewing the evidence in light of the elements of the crime as charged to the jury , we reject defendant's contention that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence. It is undisputed that the victim sustained subdural hematomas, retinal hemorrhaging and cerebral edema, commonly referred to as the triad symptoms indicative of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). The People's expert witnesses testified that, in the absence of evidence of external trauma, those symptoms in a baby can be caused only by shaking the baby with great force. The People's experts further testified that there can be no "lucid interval" between the shaking and the baby's death or disability. Thus, because the victim lost consciousness while in the exclusive care of defendant, it was reasonable for the jury to conclude that defendant shook the victim, causing his death. Although defendant's experts challenged the validity of SBS, it cannot be said on this record that the jury failed to give the evidence the weight it should be accorded  "Where, as here, there was conflicting expert evidence concerning criminal responsibility, the jury was free to accept or reject in whole or in part the opinion of any expert at least in the absence of a serious flaw in the expert's testimony"

We further conclude that County Court properly allowed the prosecutor to cross-examine a defense expert concerning statements made by a defendant in another case in which that expert had previously testified.
We agree with defendant, however, that the sentence is unduly harsh and severe. Defendant, who is 70 years old, has no prior criminal record and, as the People correctly concede, her crime was not intentional in nature. We note that the victim's parents supported defendant throughout the proceedings and, at sentencing, they pleaded with the court not to incarcerate her. The parents stated that a sentence of incarceration would only compound their tragedy and add to their grief. The court nevertheless sentenced defendant to the maximum punishment permitted by law, i.e., an indeterminate term of imprisonment of 5 to 15 years. Although we are cognizant that an innocent life has been lost at its infancy, we conclude that, under the circumstances of this case, an indeterminate term of imprisonment of 2 to 6 years is more appropriate. Thus, as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice we modify the judgment accordingly.

SBS: Vermont: Russ Van Vleck trial posponed pending experts' opinions

KEITH WHITCOMB JR. :  06/20/2011

BENNINGTON -- A manslaughter trial involving the death of an infant that was expected to continue all of this week and into the next has been put off until at least September.
The trial of Russ C. Van Vleck, 28, who pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in March of last year, heavily involves the use of expert witnesses by both state prosecutors and Van Vleck's attorney, William Wright.
Van Vleck was charged after his infant son's death was ruled a homicide. State medical examiners said there was bleeding in his skull that could only have been caused by trauma within 24 hours of his death. The state has accused Van Vleck of causing the trauma, while Van Vleck has argued his son died from other causes.
Deputy State's Attorney Christina Rainville said it wasn't until Friday that an expert of Wright's was deposed and what his testimony would consist of was learned. Rainville told Judge David Howard that the witness, Dr. Ronald Uscinski, a Maryland nuerosurgeon, would be presenting "junk science" to the jury and didn't want him to testify. She said her own experts did not have time to review what Uscinski was expected to say.
Wright argued that the state was aware of the defense's evidence and had been for some time.
There was some talk of Uscinski's testimony going through a "Daubert hearing," which is a process in which a judge hears argument on the veracity of the science behind an expert witness' testimony and
determines if the jury should hear it. It was determined there was no time for such a hearing, as many of the experts called are practicing doctors and had tight schedules. Some of Wright's witnesses were medical examiners from the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office in Florida, while the state had called Dr. Steven Shapiro of Burlington.
While arguing before the judge, Wright indicated Uscinski would be testifying that "shaken baby syndrome" is a myth in the terms it has been described in this and similar cases, and that an infant cannot die of shaking if the shaking wasn't bad enough to break the neck. He said his experts believe the child's brain had been bleeding since it was born.
Rainville called the theory "junk" and said her experts would say all children born with a "subdural hematoma" either suffer a severe and noticeable one at birth, or it clears up in a few weeks.
Howard said the court will try for a September trial date, and a new jury will be selected. He told the attorneys to let their experts know to set aside two-day slots, as the pace of a trial is not predictable.
"It's clearly not something we anticipated," said Wright in an interview. "It's not something my client wanted; he really wanted to get this behind him."
Wright, a former Bennington County state's attorney, said scheduling of expert witnesses has always been difficult.
He said he feels Howard's decision to reschedule the trial is a fair one, as it will allow the opportunity for all his experts to be heard. "It's anything but junk science, it's hard science," he said.
Wright said while he didn't plan for the trial to be put off, cases involving homicide in Vermont average about a year to resolve. "Nobody wanted this to happen, but will we be in a better position come September? Absolutely."
"In our view there was extremely late disclosure of a defense expert, and a failure to provide the records that defense expert relied on," said Rainville. "The records as of today have not been provided and we just learned of the expert's opinions on Friday."
She said she'd requested the testimony not be admitted and was ready to go to trial. "I'm very disappointed that it's not going forward," she said.
Howard said he doesn't feel either the state or the defense had attempted to put the trial off. Rainville asked that Van Vleck waive his right to a speedy trial, but Howard declined to ask him that. He said if Van Vleck raises the issue in the future, the court will address it, but said the delays have been caused by both sides.

SBS: Tennessee: Dustin McCord charged

 June 21, 2011
A doctor testified Tuesday that a five-month-old baby brought to Children's Hospital June 5, suffered from "shaken baby syndrome." Dr. Martin Hall said Jayden Bartholomew suffered brain damage and likely will have seizures the rest of his life.
A charge of aggravated child abuse was bound to the Grand Jury against Dustin McCord, boyfriend of the child's mother. He remains on $60,000 bond.

It was testified that the child's mother, Monica Bartholomew, had gone next door, leaving McCord with the child. He then told her the child was stiffening up.
Dr. Hall testified that the child "has new and old subdural hematomas, so bleeding around the brain, an associative brain injury. He has retinal hemorrhages, so bleeding behind the eye."  He added, "It would need to be very vigorous shaking so that any individual would recognize it as being harmful."  Dr. Hall said, "I think it's very likely that this child will have neurologic disabilities as a result of his injuries that's likely to be permanent."

SBS: Singapore:

Shaffiq Alkhatib  Jun 18, 2011
SINGAPORE - Medical evidence presented during the inquest into the death of a baby girl who died in 2009 did not enable him to make a definitive finding, said state coroner Imran Abdul Hamid yesterday.

The issue would remain open for re-consideration by the State if necessary, he said.

National University Hospital consultant Koh Pei Lin had testified that the baby had displayed classic signs of "shaken baby syndrome".

The baby was four months old when she was recorded to have died of bronchopneumonia, a respiratory condition, on Oct 26, 2009.

She was taken to the National University Hospital in an ambulance after her mother found her weak and unresponsive from a high fever with fits in July that year.

The baby spent about three months on life-support before she died in a coma in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

She also had injuries including bleeding in both her eyes - which indicated she could had been suffering from shaken baby syndrome, said Dr Koh, a consultant at the ICU.

The court had earlier heard that repeated, vigorous shaking of a baby would cause a lot of head movements which can cause bleeding and swelling.

However, forensic pathologist Wee Keng Poh, who conducted the post mortem, said these conditions did not completely point to the syndrome.

"The circumstances of the case and its clinical picture must be considered together before coming to the diagnosis", said Dr Wee.

The baby girl was the third child in the family.

Her oldest brother died when he was three months' old in 2008 after suffering a brain injury. Coroner Imran said the mother dropped him after a cyclist knocked into her.

The couple have one surviving son, who was three when the baby girl died.,-says-state-coroner

Friday, 24 June 2011

SIDS: Breastfeeding Mom Kills Baby While Drunk

 Jeanne Sager : on June 22, 2011
Imagine a mom's worst nightmare. She settles in to breastfeed her baby girl for the last time for the night, baby snuggled at the breast, happy and content. Then she falls asleep. When she wakes up, the baby's dead. Would you judge her? Now what if she had an entire bottle of wine in her system?
Kind of changes things, doesn't it? I really want to feel bad for Emma Hector, a British mom accused of killing her baby girl, Naomi, as she breastfed the 7-month-old in the family bed back in 2009.
It's one of those "there but for the grace of God go I" situations. I've slept with my daughter in my bed. I wasn't a dedicated co-sleeper by any means, but I did it at times because it was convenient. Because the smell of my infant was in and of itself intoxicating, I was so overcome with love that I couldn't be apart. Because some nights, I was so exhausted, it was just easier.
But then there's that bottle of wine that Emma sucked down. Hector's husband was said to have found their daughter face down and motionless, with blood in her mouth and her mother's breast covering her face. His wife was passed out cold. Drunk. Not only had she drank just about the full bottle, she'd had nothing to eat.
I'm going to go ahead and say it. A glass of wine, one mug of beer, when you're breastfeeding, and most of us will look the other way. Most pediatricians these days say there's no reason to pump and dump. But I've yet to meet a doc who'd suggest the best way to build up your milk supply is to chug that wine and skimp on the eats to boot. Just like pregnancy, breastfeeding requires a mom to keep baby in mind as she eats and imbibes throughout the day. Just from a sustenance level, Emma Hector did Naomi wrong.
Add to that the fact that every parenting book out there warns that alcohol plus co-sleeping equals a huge increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, and Emma Hector -- who has two other kids, one child older than Naomi, one born since her death -- knew the risks she was taking.
I'm all about "Moms need to support each other," but I just can't do it here. Emma Hector knew what she was doing was wrong. She did it anyway. Although an inquest has just determined they're unable to prove a direct linkage between Emma's actions and Naomi's death, I think the mom should be carried straight to the clink. She's culpable.
How about you? Was this something that could happen to any mom or was this a direct "Mom did wrong, Mom caused the child's death" case in your eyes? Is it criminal?

SIDS: Alabama: Alabama now has a law setting up unexplained infant death investigation teams so that the state can reduce preventable baby deaths

 June 23, 2011,  
When a bill manages to pass both the Alabama Senate and House without a no vote in either chamber, you know the bill must be one long overdue.
Such is the case with the Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Act, which got final approval on the last day of the legislative session earlier this month.
The state already has child death review teams that take a look at most child deaths.
This latest bill, sponsored by state Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and state Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Madison County, focuses on investigating unexplained baby deaths.
Often, when an infant less than a year old dies unexpectantly, the assumption was that most of the deaths were from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. In fact, in some cases, a baby suffocates when sleeping with a larger person, or an infant could even be the victim of abuse, shaken by a parent or a caregiver in anger.
This law mandates training for law-enforcement officers who respond to an infant death scene, so that the information gained can assist a medical examiner in determining an actual cause of death.
The new Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Team will be a subcommittee of the existing Child Death Review Team within the state Department of Public Health.
That is the right home. Among the SUIDI team responsibilities: establish the protocol for investigating infant deaths; develop and maintain training standards and policies involving infant death investigations; approve the standardized reporting form and procedures; and make sure law-enforcement agencies, coroners and deputy coroners are trained in investigations and reporting.
Fortunately, the Alabama team won't have to start from scratch. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines, reporting forms, training standards and other tools that should help the state group set up a good investigation team.
If state policymakers know the actual reasons for infant deaths, they can propose regulations, laws and public education campaigns that help reduce preventable infant deaths.
The more that is learned about how infants die in the home, the less mysterious it will be. Many states have had similar sudden infant death investigation teams for a while; it's encouraging that Alabama has now joined their ranks.

SIDS: 14 ways parents raise the risk

SBS: Wisconsin: Andrew Goldston verdict, first degree reckless homicide

June 10, 2011 : Eric Litke
A jury convicted Andrew Goldston on Thursday of killing his infant son, believing doctors' testimony the child's injuries were too severe for the short, accidental fall Goldston described.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated five hours before returning the verdict against the 24-year-old Sheboygan man on a felony count of first-degree reckless homicide. Goldston will face a maximum of 40 years in prison at a future sentencing before Judge James Bolgert.
No sentencing date has been set.
Prosecutors said — with backing from doctors who examined the boy — that Goldston shook and/or slammed 1-month-old Leander to the ground while alone with the boy on March 9, 2010.
Leander suffered swelling and bleeding in and around the brain, as well as severe retinal bleeding; he died after nine days at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa.
Assistant District Attorney Joel Urmanski said after the verdict he is pleased that "justice was done."
"I'm happy because Leander didn't have any say in what happened. Ultimately, when we're representing the state, we're also representing Leander, so that's satisfying," said Urmanski, who prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bork. "When someone's convicted of this crime — and we'll certainly be recommending a very significant incarceration — it's never easy to see someone go to jail for years and years, but the jury agreed with the allegations of what happened. It's a serious crime."
Jurors said they struggled with the decision to convict Goldston.
"We're not happy about what we had to do today," said one female juror who declined to give her name.
"It's not easy," another added.
Defense attorney Barbara Kirchner declined comment after the hearing, as did Leander's mother, Tammy DePagter.
The case went to the jury about 10 a.m. Thursday after closing arguments from Urmanski and Kirchner. The trial, which began Monday, left the jury to sift through an array of conflicting testimony.
The inconsistencies — as reiterated by Urmanski in his closing — began with Goldston, who told a 911 dispatcher that he dropped Leander onto a bouncy chair while getting off the couch to reach for a remote control.
He later told police the infant actually fell to the floor.
A third version of events emerged from a fellow jail inmate, Jeffery Lucas, who testified that Goldston admitted squeezing, shaking and dropping the infant as the two spoke after a jailhouse Bible study late last year. Goldston said he needed God's forgiveness for hurting his child, Lucas said.
The conversation took place in the jail pod where both were housed, but that fact was withheld from the jury after Bolgert ruled it could bias them against Goldston.
Bolgert also barred prosecutors from telling the jury that Leander suffered rib injuries. The injuries were consistent with so-called shaken baby syndrome, but doctors could not say for sure if they were inflicted at the same time as the fatal injuries.
In closing, Urmanski replayed a video of Goldston demonstrating how he claimed the child fell, dropping 18 to 30 inches onto thin carpeting.
Goldston appears to choke up when asked by a detective about previously showing emotion discussing the child, but he abruptly returns to a normal voice when asked another question.
"Why all these misstatements? He can't keep it straight," Urmanski told the jury. "Those tears, he was real good trying to pour on emotion there, but he's asked a question and (immediately) he responds."
The baby was injured shortly after DePagter got in an argument with Goldston and left.
Goldston told a detective he called 911 about five minutes after the child was injured because Leander was not breathing.
Lucas also testified that Goldston described being frustrated that Leander's birth had kept him from going out more with friends.
"There is no answer other than the defendant was frustrated, the defendant was angry," Urmanski said. "Leander was the point of contention, Leander was the one changing his lifestyle. Leander was the one not allowing him to leave."
Kirchner told the jury Goldston "mistakenly" referenced the "stupid bouncy" initially.
She said Lucas, who showed the jury how Goldston demonstrated shaking the child, was actually referring to Goldston reaching out in an attempt to catch the child.
Kirchner made no reference to Lucas' other statements that Goldston admitted squeezing and shaking the baby.
"What happened in this case was a horrible, tragic accident," Kirchner told the jury.
Urmanski and Kirchner also traded barbs over their expert witnesses.
The forensic pathologist who conducted Leander's autopsy concluded it was an abuse-related homicide, and the director of the child abuse division at Children's Hospital — Dr. Lynn Sheets — said the injuries could not have occurred in a short fall as Goldston described.
A doctor testifying for the defense as a paid witness, Dr. John Plunkett, countered that the fall caused some of the injuries and started a cascade effect that led to others.
Sheets called Plunkett's explanation an unproven theory, and Urmanski reminded the jury Thursday that Plunkett had admitted being proven wrong in a similar case in Montana.
Plunkett testified that a child's fatal injuries couldn't have been caused by shaking, but the child's father later admitted to shaking his daughter to death.

SBS: Newfoundland: Jeffery Tippett trial continues

June 9, 2011 : Gary Kean
The seventh day of testimony at the second-degree murder trial of Jeffery Tippett involved the court hearing more evidence from medical experts Thursday.
Another medical expert has testified at Jeffery Tippett’s second-degree murder trial that she does not believe the injuries Tameron Rose presented with at hospital on Jan. 30, 2007 could have been caused by an accident.
Tippett’s trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook resumed Thursday morning with evidence from Dr. Andrea Reid, the radiologist at Western Memorial Regional Hospital who would have analyzed the first CT scans done of the 11-month-old child not long after he was brought to hospital from Tippett’s home.
After describing the bleeding she found in the membranes between Tameron’s skull and brain and what she suspected might be bleeding in the brain tissue itself, Reid was asked why her notes on her findings included a suspicion that this may be a case of child abuse or shaken baby syndrome.
Like other medical experts who have already testified at the trial, Reid said she did not believe the type of injuries she saw were consistent with the explanations she was given, which included that Tameron had hit his head on Tippett’s shoulder.
Reid said that, although a skull fracture at the back of Tameron’s head was not discovered during her analysis of the CT scans, she compared his brain injury to someone having fallen to the ground from several stories.
The trial continues this afternoon.

SBS: Pennsylvania: Lamont Cherry trial re-scheduled

Sheena Delazio

WILKES-BARRE – The retrial of a city man scheduled to be held later this month on homicide charges in the death of a 1-year-old girl will now begin in August, a Luzerne County judge said.

Lamont Cherry leaves the Luzerne County Courthouse after a deadlocked jury could not come up with a verdict in the homicide trial. S.John Wilkin/The Times Leader
Judge Tina Polachek Gartley, who originally scheduled a June 27 trial for Lamont Cherry, continued the trial at the request of Cherry’s attorneys, William Ruzzo and Christopher O’Donnell.
Ruzzo and O’Donnell said an expert they intend to call at the trial cannot appear during the week of June 27.
Polachek Gartley said Cherry will now stand trial on Aug. 22.
Cherry, 37, who is charged with the May 2009 death of his girlfriend’s 1-year-old daughter, Zalayia McCloe, originally stood trial on the charge in January.
After a two-week trial, including jury selection, a mistrial was declared due to a juror’s misconduct after the jury decided Cherry was not guilty of first-degree murder.
Juror Gretchen Black had conducted research after the jury had gone home for the day about retinal detachment – a complication of shaken baby syndrome McCloe allegedly suffered before her death.
An investigation was conducted and Black was not charged with any wrongdoing.
Cherry will now face lesser charges of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
Had Cherry been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have faced the death penalty or life in prison.
Polachek Gartley said Friday her biggest concern is publicity of the case because Black’s misconduct was widely reported by local media outlets.
“Jurors need to be asked questions specific to that,” Polachek Gartley said, adding that is her main concern followed by whether jurors have heard anything about the case.
Polachek Gartley said a pre-trial hearing on any outstanding motions will be held on Aug. 16. Attorneys have said the trial is expected to last four days.
Assistant District Attorneys Michael Vough and Maureen Collins are prosecuting the case.

SBS: Illinois: Ian Watkins may be released

By ANDY KRAVETZ  Jun 10, 2011

A South Peoria man was convicted Thursday of killing his former girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter but will likely be released from custody soon.
That's because Ian Watkins, 31, has spent more than nine years behind bars for the Dec. 2, 2009, death of Kei-Anna Monroe. His initial 2003 first-degree murder conviction and 47-year prison sentence were later reversed, and a 2006 jury couldn't reach a verdict.
Now, his conviction for involuntary manslaughter appears to carries a maximum of five years in prison, which means Watkins will not likely have to serve any more time in prison.
Peoria County Circuit Judge Steve Kouri set a hearing for Monday, when he will decide if Watkins will be free on bond pending his Aug. 25 sentencing.
The three-day trial was emotional for all sides. At one point during the closing arguments Thursday, Watkins began to sob as his attorney, Kevin Lowe, told jurors about his client's low intelligence and mental health problems. Before that, another man became so emotional as prosecutors listed the girl's numerous injuries, he was told to leave the room.
As the verdict was read, family members of Watkins sat quietly, but like Watkins, they looked relieved. Across the aisle, relatives of Kei-Anna looked stunned. That turned to anger and grief as they left the building. One stood outside the building and cried, "It's not fair. He killed her and he goes free."
Prosecutors Jodi Hoos and Nancy Mermelstein said Watkins was baby-sitting Kei-Anna and her two brothers on Dec. 1, 2009, at his South Peoria apartment. The little girl's grandmother, who had custody of Kei-Anna, came over to pick her up and found her nonresponsive.
She was rushed to the hospital and placed in intensive care, but the damage was too severe, and she was taken off life support the next day.
Hoos pointed to testimony of several doctors who labeled the injuries as shaken baby syndrome and not accidental. She urged jurors to reject the manslaughter charge, saying the notion Watkins was merely reckless was implausible. She also disputed a claim by Watkins that he tried to dislodge a hot dog from the girl's throat.
"How is it that she is choking on a hot dog and her DNA is not found on the hot dog (piece)?" she said. "I submit that is impossible."
But Lowe countered that later tests were inconclusive and couldn't rule out the possibility the little girl's DNA was on the hot dog.
He also said Watkins' accounts of what happened changed not because he was guilty of murder, as prosecutors said, but because his client couldn't properly explain himself to detectives.
Lowe stressed that his client's low intelligence and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder played a role. He ended his closing argument with a statement Watkins made to police.
"I panicked; I didn't know what to do. I was doing the best that I could."

SBS: BBC Assignment

Linda Pressly reports for Assignment on the growing disquiet over miscarriages of justice in shaken baby cases.

SBS: Brian Terrell Walker sentenced 5 years for involuntary manslaughter

Nancy Drury Duncan : June 15 2011
ACCOMAC -- After almost eight hours of deliberations over the course of two days, a jury of nine women and three men found the man charged with the murder of his girlfriend's baby guilty of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Brian Terrell Walker, 25, of Northampton County appeared to wipe away tears after the verdict was read. A group of his friends and family attending the trial wept openly after hearing the jury's decision.
Later Friday, the jury recommended Walker spend five years in prison. A judge will formally sentence him later.
Brian Terrell Walker
Walker was arrested over a year ago and charged with the child's murder after police concluded that he beat and shook 11-month-old Isaiah Russell, causing his death.
In March 2010, Walker was on vacation from his job at Perdue and agreed to stay home with Jessica Russell's baby and 2-year-old daughter while she went to work, saving her the cost of a week of day care.
Russell testified on the witness stand that she got up at around six that morning, fixed eggs and hot dogs for herself and Walker and cereal for her daughters. She gave Isaiah a bottle and changed his diaper, she said.
Russell described everything that happened that morning as "normal routine." Her son was fine when she left, she told the court.
She said she took her 9-year-old daughter to the bus, went to work and sent a text message to Walker at about 9 a.m. telling him to give the baby, who had a cold, a dose of Tylenol. She said she had no more contact with him or her children until she received word from the Human Resources office at Perdue at about 2:45 that afternoon that Isaiah was being rushed by ambulance to the emergency room.
Defense attorney Benjamin Hamlet admitted that his client was there with the baby, and said Walker bathed and fed both children later in the morning and then took a nap while the children slept.
He said Walker awoke sometime before 2:15 to find the 2-year-old hitting him with her fists, telling him to wake up, saying that the baby was not breathing right. Hamlet described his client as, "an extremely deep sleeper."
He said Walker found the baby on his back on the floor making gurgling sounds. He said Walker grabbed the baby and ran to a neighbor's house to use the telephone because he had no way to call 911. After finding no one home at the first house, he went to the home of another neighbor, Herman Ayres Jr.
Ayres testified that Walker had come to his house carrying the lifeless baby, called 911 and proceeded to give the baby CPR as instructed by a 911 dispatcher. An ambulance quickly arrived and took the child to Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital. Walker did not go, he said, because he had the 2-year-old girl to look after.
Emergency room physician Dr. Harry Lustig told the court that the baby arrived in critical condition with severe head injuries and could not breathe on his own. He ordered the child transported to Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk.
Dr. Verena Wyville, a child abuse specialist at that hospital, examined Isaiah, and said he had three skull fractures, numerous bruises and abrasions, a bloody mouth resulting from a torn frenulum and was also a victim of "shaken baby syndrome."
Wyville testified that the baby weighed only 16 pounds and suffered also from "nutritional neglect." Isaiah never again breathed unassisted or regained consciousness. Two days later he was declared brain dead and removed from life support.
Assistant Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Elizabeth Kinnison performed the autopsy. She described "blunt force head injuries" as the cause of death. She told the court in graphic detail what shaking a baby can do. It causes the brain to be thrown loosely around the inside of the skull, causing bleeding, swelling and finally, brain death, she said.
She said she noted many injuries on the outside of the body as well. She described and showed the jury photo after photo from the autopsy depicting injuries to Isaiah's arm and leg, a laceration of the frenulum which attaches the upper lip to the gum, marks from blows behind his ears and three skull fractures.
She told the court that his front teeth were loose. Kinnison testimony was that it would take considerable force to cause those kind of injuries.
In her testimony, the child's mother said Walker had always been good with her children; in fact, he treated them better than his own two children, she said. After the killing, she admitted she continued to send text messages to Walker telling him she loved him.
Russell told the court she took Isaiah to meet the man she believed to be his biological father for the first time the night before he was attacked. She said the man was concerned that the child had a cold and went to Dollar General and bought Tylenol and an ointment for his chapped cheeks.
She did not tell Walker about that visit but did say that she had received a message from the man wanting to see his son. Walker was not happy about that. She said he went to bed and turned away from her, which was unusual, she said.
The defense offered several explanations as to what could have occurred to the baby. He suggested that his mother could have beaten him before she left for work that morning, or that the 2-year-old could have tried to get him out of his crib and dropped him, or that a stranger could have come into the house and brutally beaten the child while Walker slept unaware.
He produced a copy of a Facebook page, supposedly posted by Russell, saying that she had set Walker up and framed him for the crime. She said the page and postings were not hers. She described to the court how simple it would be to set up a page in another person's name and said there was great animosity between her family and the family and friends of Walker. She said she suspected they had done it.
The Commonwealth showed Isaiah's small crib to the jury. It was only three feet high, said Assistant Commonwealth's attorney Matthew Brenner. "Based on the doctors' testimony, the injuries could have only come through violence," he said. He called it "preposterous" that someone would break into the house and brutally beat the baby while Walker slept.
He disputed also the defense's suggestion that the child's mother did it to collect on a life insurance policy. He said she had a $5,000 policy on the child but said she only received half of that because Isaiah had not yet reached his first birthday. "And that whole amount went to Cooper and Humbles," a local funeral company, Russell testified.
In his closing argument, Brenner admitted his case was circumstantial, but said was based on opportunity and medical testimony. "It is clear that an adult created these injuries, with "extreme, malicious, violent force," he said. "We know there was shaking because that is the only way these injuries occur."
After hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The jury then heard arguments relating to his sentencing. Brenner told the jury of Walker's 16 prior convictions, including brandishing a firearm and assault.
The defense put Walker's mother on the stand, who described her son as a loving father to his two young children and a "hard worker."
Hamlet made a motion asking the court to set aside the jury's verdict based on insufficient evidence. Circuit Judge Stephen C. Mahan said he would take the motion under advisement and rule on it at a later time.

SBS: California: James Yang 10 year sentence affirmed

An appeals court on Wednesday affirmed the 10-year prison sentence given to an Olivehurst man who beat and shook his 3-month-old daughter, leaving her blind and brain-damaged.
James Yang was 26 when arrested in March 2009 on suspicion of cruelty to a child.
Yang became angry at the girl when she defecated while he was changing her diaper. He hit her hard across the face three times. When he gave her a bath, he noticed she was not breathing, according to a court document.
"After several attempts to revive her, she began gasping. He called 911," wrote Presiding Justice Vance W. Raye of the 3rd District Court of Appeal.
A year later, the girl still suffered the effects of shaken baby syndrome, including an abnormally small head and inability to control her arms and legs. She is blind and requires a feeding tube, Raye wrote.
Under a plea agreement with the Yuba County District Attorney's Office, Yang was to receive the mid-term prison sentence of 10 years. Judge Kathleen O'Connor refused to accept the plea, citing the circumstances of the offense.
A few weeks later, however, Judge Julia Scrogin accepted the plea and sentenced Yang to 10 years. She ordered him to pay $65,665 in restitution — the cost of his daughter's Medi-Cal care, according to the document

SBS: Missouri: Shelley Richter trial postponed

Kate Walls Lauman: June 13 2011

The trial for Shelley Richter was scheduled to start Monday. According to online court documents, the trial has been pushed back to January.
Last September, the Taos woman was charged with child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. A grand jury alleged she hit and shook 7-month-old Lane Schaeffer.
Richter said she dropped Lane on a concrete floor after tripping over another child at her home daycare. However, doctors testified that the baby's injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

SBS: Connecticutt: 5 month old Kyle Robinson's death ruled homicide

ANSONIA -- Police confirmed that Wednesday, when they reported a 5-month-old boy died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head.
The baby, Kyle Robinson, died Sunday.
The infant was in the care of his mother's boyfriend at the time of the incident, according to Lt. Andrew Cota, police spokesman.
Cota said the boyfriend is the focus of the investigation, since he was the only adult there at the time. Cota said two other children -- 2 and 5 -- were also at home and in the boyfriend's care, but neither was injured.
No arrests have been made.
Cota said an autopsy was conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Tuesday, and the baby's death was ruled a homicide.
He said police responded Friday night to the home, along with medical personnel, for a report of a child in distress who was unresponsive. Cota said there was no indication at that time that anything criminal had taken place. "There was no outside indication of any trauma, no blood," he said.
A man who lives in the downstairs apartment tried giving the baby CPR before emergency personnel arrived on the scene, but the baby wasn't breathing, Henderson said.
Cota said police and emergency medical personnel also tried CPR before transporting the baby to Griffin Hospital in Derby for immediate treatment. The baby was later transferred to Yale New Haven Hospital where he was put on life support, Cota said.
"We got reports from the hospital over the weekend about the boy's condition, and we realized the severe injury was not accidentally inflicted," he said. "Right now, we are considering it a case of shaken baby syndrome and are still trying to figure out exactly what happened."
Joette Katz, DCF commissioner, confirmed the department first became involved with the family in April because of an incident at the house that resulted in an injury. "A comprehensive medical evaluation determined that the reported incident was accidental," Katz said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "A second report came to the department in May, and the department substantiated neglect against the mother's boyfriend for lack of supervision based upon his having left the children unattended for a very brief period of time."
She said a plan was put in place with the mother that included having a relative assist in caring for the children with the boyfriend, and in-home services were being arranged for the family. During the most recent visit with the family days before the child's death, the department found the children well attended and cared for, she said.
Katz said further investigation by the department will be conducted, which will include a review of its involvement with the family.
"This is a tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of this young boy," she said. "The death of a child deeply affects everyone at the department and most of all those who were recently working to help the family," she added. "It is now our responsibility to look at the case and see what can be learned to make a senseless death like this less likely to recur."

SBS: Ohio: Tiffani Calise, baby sitter, sentenced

Mike Waterhouse, and Bob Jones
AKRON, Ohio - A Summit County jury has found a baby sitter guilty in the death of a 23-month-old girl she was watching.
The guilty verdicts against Tiffani Calise, 20, includes convictions for murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering.  It was announced just before 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Judge Alison McCarty sentenced Calise to 15 years to life in prison for the death of Aaliyah Ali.
Prior to sentencing, Aaliyah's mother, Gabrielle Moneypenny, faced Calise and said, "I don't know why you did this to her. You have ruined my life."
Moments later, a sobbing Calise said to the judge, "I would never harm a child.  I never hurt Aaliyah. For me to be found guilty on something I didn't do, it just shows how messed up all this can get."
She said she is planning to appeal the verdict.
At the time of the incident on Aug. 9, 2010, paramedics were called to Calise's apartment in Green for a report of a child unresponsive.  The toddler died a couple days later at Akron Children’s Hospital from critical injuries.
According to the Summit County Sheriff’s Department, Calise told deputies she found the child limp in the bath tub.  But authorities later found the child’s injuries were not consistent with that story.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Aaliyah died from shaken baby syndrome.  The defense argued that the injuries happened when the girl fell and hit her head in the bathtub.
"She was shaken by her (Calise).  Violently shaken by her and caused massive brain damage and it did not happen from a fall in the tub," said Greg Peacock, assistant Summit County prosecutor.
Moneypenny believes the verdict means justice for Aaliyah.
"She was the most perfect baby I could ever have imagined.  She's wonderful, always laughed, was always happy.  I love her so much.  I would do anything in the world to have her back," Moneypenny said.
Calise’s 2-year-old daughter was taken into the custody of family members following the murder charge.
Calise also delivered a second child while in custody for the murder.  That child is also staying with a relative, according to prosecutors.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

SBS and AHT: Child's whining one of life's most distracting sounds

Jonathan Allen Jun 21, 2011
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Any parent can confirm what researchers say they may now have scientifically proven: a child whining is one of the most distracting sounds on the planet.Worse than the unpleasant screeches of a table saw catching repeatedly on a piece of wood. Even harder to ignore than cringe-inducing exaggerated baby-talk of caregivers known as "motherese."
The sound of a whining child tops them all as the most distracting, according to new research published in the latest edition of the online peer-reviewed Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology.
The research was designed to test whether humans, including non-parents, are hard-wired to be more attuned to the distinctive melodies and rhythms emitted by a needy toddler than they are to other distracting noises.
Volunteers were asked to try to complete a set of math problems while wearing headphones. Six different sound conditions were created through the headphones: toddler whines; baby cries; motherese; the more neutral speech of two grown-ups in conversation; the screeching table saw; and silence.
All of the speech used in the recordings was in languages unfamiliar to the volunteers, to ensure that the effect of the speeches' prosody, and not its meaning, was being tested.
The volunteers completed the fewest problems and made the most mistakes while trying to block out the sound of a whiny infant, regardless of whether they were male or female, or whether they had children of their own. The error rate was nearly twice that of the problems completed to the backdrop of the screeching saw.
Motherese and baby cries, which, like whining, are characterized by heightened pitch and exaggerated contours, were also fairly distracting.
The study concludes that when a child whines -- a phase the researchers say really hits its stride between the ages of about 2 and 4 years old -- it is exploiting an "auditory sensitivity" shared by all humans.
The paper's authors -- Rosemarie Sokol Chang, of SUNY New Paltz in New York, and Nicholas S. Thompson, of Clark University in Massachusetts -- say further research needs to be done to find out whether the particular melody, rhythm and speed of whining is inherently distracting to humans, or if it is a learned response.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)

Blogger's note:
There can never be an excuse but we need explanation of causes if we are to eliminate their effects. This finding is particularly in keeping with the increased likelihood of an angry young male losing his temper.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

SIDS: Missouri child-care facilities must put babies on backs to sleep

SIDS Resources of Missouri recommends the following sleep practices to protect children up to a year in age from sudden infant death syndrome or accidental suffocation:
• Practice the ABCs of safe sleep: Babies should sleep Alone, on their Backs in a safety-approved Crib at nighttime and nap time.
• Babies should not be exposed to smoke, and mothers should not smoke during pregnancy.
• Nothing should be in the crib except the baby — no wedges, bumper pads, pillows, stuffed animals, quilts or blankets.
• Consider using a wearable blanket, such as a sleep sack or footed sleeper, instead of blankets.
• The mattress should be firm and well-fitted. If more than two fingers can be placed between the side of the mattress and the crib, the mattress is too small.
It's been 15 years since the American Academy of Pediatrics first recommended putting babies on their backs to sleep to prevent sudden infant death syndrome and accidental suffocation.
Yet, until now, Missouri has failed to incorporate the potentially life-saving practice in any of its child care licensing rules.
That's why SIDS prevention advocates are celebrating a forthcoming state rule that requires licensed child-care facilities in the state to place infants a year and under on their backs at nap time.
"This is a very important rule," said Lori Behrens, executive director of SIDS Resources of Missouri. "We're glad we have it on the books, and it gives us the lead that we need to get in with child-care providers — especially those home-care providers — to do our education on safe sleep."
The rule is in addition to another new one that child safety advocates said has long been lacking: At least one staff member trained in CPR must be on duty at all times in both licensed centers and licensed home day cares.
In an interview earlier this spring, Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said both rules were highly significant and would save lives. The department regulates child care in the state through its Section for Child Care Licensing.
The "back-to-sleep" rule is expected to go into effect by late summer and the CPR regulation by January 1. They will affect about 2,200 centers and another 1,440 licensed home-based child cares. From 2007 to 2009, the Missouri Child Fatality Review Program, which reviews unexpected deaths in young children in Missouri, recorded two infant deaths in licensed child care facilities because of SIDS or suffocation.
The new rules do not, however, apply to the unknown number of legally unlicensed home-based child-care businesses in Missouri, estimated to number well over 5,000, nor to the 670 faith-based child-care centers in churches and other settings that are exempted from licensing in Missouri.
Nevertheless, it's a start, say advocates of quality child care, many of whom have been waiting for such changes.
Missouri has not had a wholesale revision of its child-care rules in two decades. Efforts within the past five years by the state to update those rules have faltered because of budget cuts, changes in leadership and concerns on the part of smaller providers about costs and the scope of regulation. About two years ago, state licensing officials lost funding for consultants to help with the effort, because of state revenue shortfalls. Officials said then that the state would attempt to do the revisions piece by piece.
The new back-to-sleep and CPR requirements are the first new rules to come out of that process. Another rule mandating disaster plans is still under review by the state. Those plans would deal with evacuations, lockdowns and other procedures in the event of weather disasters, fires, kidnapping, bomb threats or other emergencies.
"We are very pleased that child-care licensing has taken this step in the right direction," said Carol Scott, executive director of Child Care Aware of Missouri. "But it's been 20 years almost since we revised the licensing rules in Missouri, and we've learned a lot in 20 years. Over that time, organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics have made strong suggestions about better protections for children. Missouri hasn't kept up with those recommendations."
Many established licensed child-care providers — particularly accredited ones with independent reviewers — have been abiding by the back-to-sleep rule on their own for more than a decade.
"If I'm giving advice out to parents, I tell them, 'You just need to put your child to sleep on their backs,'" said Lynn Navin, director of the University Child Development Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, which has had such a policy for years. "Too many children are dying because of policies that could be in place that are not."
Susan Horn, head of school of the Downtown Children's Center in St. Louis, said that most of her parents expected to have a back-to-sleep policy and that the center had had one for years. The center posts the policy and prevention message in its handbook, its enrollment papers and on posters in all its classrooms, she said.
"I actually was surprised it wasn't a licensing rule," Horn said. "Just, to me, it's obvious."
But such practices aren't always adhered to in child care — particularly in home-based child care businesses where providers often aren't regulated, have little or no training and are generally older. Until this rule, it had not been a given that licensed centers and homes were adhering to back-to-sleep practices.
National researchers on SIDS have long lamented that most children are dying in home-based care, where providers put babies on their tummies for naps because that is how they raised their babies years ago.
A study nearly a decade ago by Rachel Moon, a pediatrician and SIDS researcher with Children's National Medical Center, determined that 20 percent of all SIDS deaths occur in child care, when that rate should be about 8 percent given babies sleep more hours at home than in child care.
Behrens, of SIDS Resources, said the back-to-sleep rule should be just a start.
"I think that every child-care provider should receive training on exactly what safe sleep means, and that every center and home should have a safe sleep policy — something in writing that says this baby will sleep on their back," she said.
She notes that SIDS Resources also does not recommend crib bumpers or any other type of suffocation hazard in a crib, and advises parents to use blanket sleepers or wearable swaddlers instead of plain blankets.
Navin has personal experience. In the 1980s — long before current research about SIDS prevention — an infant died of SIDS during her first job in a child-care center in another state. When a parent asks Navin to put her child on his or her tummy for a nap because that is what they do at home or the child sleeps better, Navin has no problem saying no.
"It's been 25 years, and I can still see that little baby that was dead in the crib, and I won't do it. I won't."

SIDS: OHIO: Varnell Carter charged with manslaughter

Mark Gokavi June 14, 2011

Varnell Carter told a Xenia police detective that he “screwed up” by putting his wife’s 4-month-old daughter on her stomach for a nap and that he is “just so sorry” that Reagan Merriweather died July 6, 2010.
But Carter, 26, also said during recorded interviews with Xenia police Det. Fred Meadows that he didn’t commit a crime. The video was part of several hours of testimony Tuesday in front of Greene County Common Pleas Court Judge Stephen A. Wolaver. Carter is on trial on charges of manslaughter and child endangering.
A jury of six women and six men heard from Greene Memorial Hospital emergency room physician Dr. C. Steven Dixon, who told defense attorney Jay A. Adams that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) was the doctor’s initial diagnosis.
The infant’s pediatrician, Dr. Sami Muhtadi, testified that positional asphyxia — the ruling of Greene County Coroner Dr. Kevin L. Sharrett — often has “very similar findings“ as SIDS and that the two can be confused. All the medical personnel testified SIDS is an unexplained, evolving area of medicine.
The day’s last witness, Sharrett said the information he received from the autopsy, photos and investigators’ interviews led to his positional asphyxia ruling, “consistent with suffocation,” but that the manner of death was ruled as undetermined. Sharrett said coroners must choose among natural causes, homicide, suicide, accidental and undetermined.
Sharrett said that putting an infant face down in a nursing pillow on top of sheets and a comforter would “dramatically” increase the risk of breathing issues.
The trial continues this morning with the prosecutors’ final planned witness.

SIDS: England (Berkshire):

 9th Jun 11::  Amanda Hall

Grieving parents pay tribute after inquest into death of 11-week-old Angel

Grieving parents from Slough have paid tribute to their 11-week-old daughter following today's inquest into her death.
Carrie-Ann Hanks and Mark Willoughby described their daughter Angel, who died suddenly in February, as an outgoing and happy baby who was always laughing.
The couple had returned from a trip visiting Carrie-Ann's parents in Eastbourne on February 11 when Angel passed away.
The inquest held in Windsor was told that Angel had been watching CBeebies on her pink bean bag before Carrie-Ann rocked her to sleep and put her on their bed covered in her favourite princess blanket.
"She fell asleep in my arms and then I placed her on her side on top of our bed. It was a comfort thing for her because she felt like she was still being cuddled," she added.
Carrie-Ann checked on her every 15 minutes but began screaming when she realised Angel was blue and lying on her front.
She performed CPR on her daughter before paramedics took her to Wexham Park Hospital where she passed away.
Pathologist Dr Stephen Gould said at the inquest it was difficult to determine the exact cause of death but he likened it to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) - also known as cot death.
Deputy Coroner for Berkshire Ravi Sidhu paid tribute to the couple for being 'attentive and loving parents'.
He said: "It is difficult to conceive a more tragic death than the passing of a baby but I hope you can find some small comfort in that you were loving and caring parents."
He recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.
Carrie-Ann said: "We all love her so much and will never forget her. She'll always be in our hearts and in our thoughts."

Friday, 17 June 2011

SBS: Deborah Parlock trial: other evidence

Bob Kasarda June 16, 2011
A Porter County jury acquitted a Liberty Township woman in the death of a 6-month-old boy who attended her day care.
Jurors deliberated for about two and a half hours Thursday before clearing Deborah Parlock, 56, of the felony charge of battery resulting in the death of a person younger than 14.
Earlier in the day, a doctor testifying on behalf of the defense disagreed with two other physicians that Chesterton resident Nicholas Munden died of child abuse.
Dr. Philip Deaton, a retired neurosurgeon from North Carolina, said medical records indicate the boy died of natural causes brought on by an unusually large amount of fluid built up in his head.
The pressure in his head led to bleeding, seizures, interruptions in breathing and brain damage resulting in his death, Deaton said.
"It's a little bit, almost of a time bomb situation," he said of Munden's condition.
Parlock, who did not take the stand in her own defense, said she found the boy unresponsive Sept. 19, 2008, at her home day care center. She consistently has denied doing anything wrong.
Parlock could have faced between 20 and 50 years behind bars.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Frost challenged Deaton's conclusion by questioning his credentials and the fact he did not examine the boy, talk to the boy's doctors or review all the medical records.
"In this case you can't rule out that abuse happened," Frost said, unable to steer Deaton from his conclusion.
Prosecutors put two doctors on the stand this week. They testified Munden suffered head trauma brought on by child abuse.
Deaton said while the type of head swelling experienced by Munden can cure itself by the time the child is about 2, it needs to be monitored closely up to that time to prevent complications.
He downplayed the retinal bleeding the other doctors pointed to as a sign of abuse and said the type of bleeding inside the child's skull occurs in as many as 40 percent of births. He said the bleeding in this case could date back well beyond the boy's first stay at Parlock's day care center.

SBS: Deborah Parlock trial: earlier evidence

Jessica Munden said just a couple of days after her son began staying at a Liberty Township day care center operated by Deborah Parlock on Aug. 11, 2008, the infant began projectile vomiting.
The problem worsened to the point that Nicholas Munden was hospitalized locally and in Chicago.
Nicholas recovered, was taken back to Parlock's and all went well until Sept. 19, 2008, when they boy was rushed to the hospital with trouble breathing.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Frost told jurors Monday that evidence this week will show Nicholas later died at the age of 6 months as a result of being abused by Parlock.
Parlock, 56, who periodically cried as Jessica testified, is charged with a Class A felony of battery resulting in the death of a person younger than 14. She faces between 20 and 50 years behind bars if convicted.
Defense attorney John Vouga told jurors the evidence will show Nicholas, of Chesterton, died of natural causes that began well before he began staying with Parlock and that could have been prevented with proper medical care.

The boy suffered from acid reflux, a head that was swelling "off the charts" from fluids, and he would arch back and scream.
"There was something going wrong with this little guy," Vouga said.
Munden testified Nicholas did not wake up as easy as usual on that last morning he was taken to day care.
Parlock found Nicholas unresponsive at her house on the day in question, Vouga said. She then performed CPR on the boy.
While the boy had bleeding behind his eyes, he did not have a single mark on his body or fracture to support a theory he was shaken or otherwise battered, Vouga said.

SBS: Deborah Parlock, day care provider, found not guilty

James D. Wolf Jr.  June 16, 2011

Story Image
Parlock, Deborah 2011 Deborah Parlock for PCNANNY Photo provided to the Post-Tribune ptmet

A Porter County jury took about two hours Thursday to find a former home day-care provider not guilty of abusing a 6-month-old, leading to his death.
Deborah R. Parlock, 56, of Chesterton faced a 20- to 50-year sentence if jurors had found her guilty of felony battery resulting in the death of a person less than 14 years of age.
Defense attorneys John Vouga and Nick Barnes had argued that the death of Nicholas B. Munden was a result of his poor health.
“I never doubted Debbie’s innocence since the day she walked into my office,” Vouga said after the verdict was announced. “From the minute she called 911, she has told the truth about what happened.”
He said her story never changed, that the child was fine the morning of Sept. 19, 2008, then made odd noises and began having trouble breathing — no accidents happened.
The infant went into a coma and never came out, dying 10 days later when his parents decided to shut off life support at University of Chicago’s Comer Children’s Hospital.
An autopsy showed the boy had blood on both sides of his brain and in his retinas, which can indicate shaken baby syndrome.
“This case comes down to medical testimony,” Deputy Prosecutor Matthew Frost said in closing argument.
During the unusually long 45-minute closing arguments, Frost and Vouga tried to discredit the others’ expert witnesses.
Frost said Vouga’s experts had not dealt directly with the child, just reports, and their theories were based on adult cases.
The Comer’s doctors unanimously said it was abuse, he said.
Vouga agreed the case was about medical testimony, and his medical experts said many of the child’s symptoms before the incident — excessive sleeping, an unusual cry and severe vomiting — were signs of fluid on the brain that could have led to his death.
“It also boiled down to the police not doing their job. They did not interview a single parent,” Vouga said.
One parent testified Wednesday that she called to ask Porter County Sheriff’s detectives to interview her 4-year-old.
Vouga also said during closing that the prosecution argued Parlock shook the baby and threw him on the floor, but the boy had no bruises or broken bones.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

SBS: Australia: doubts reviewed

Sunday Herald Sun : June 11, 2011
Undated Thames Valley Police handout of Maeve Sheppard. PRESS AS
Maeve Sheppard died from injuries consistent with shaken-baby syndrome, but her carer denies harming her. Picture: PA Source: Supplied

WE abhor adults who hurt and kill babies - consider them the lowest of the low - and view shaken-baby syndrome as the act of gutless monsters.
It is abhorrent; shaking a baby so violently that its tiny brain swells.
For decades the triad of encephalopathy (brain swelling), retinal haemorrhages and subdural haemorrhage (shallow collections of blood over the surface of the brain) have been used as the telltale signs of shaken-baby syndrome (SBS).
And this constellation of symptoms has put people behind bars - as it should if they are guilty of such violence.
Some experts say SBS is triggered by parents or child minders taking out their frustrations on a defenceless infant whose only "crime" is to cry too much or soil a nappy.
Others question whether SBS should be accepted as fact when it really is just a theory.
Either way, every year hundreds of babies are shaken until their body starts to break from the inside out. The injuries are so catastrophic that one in four dies.
In Australia we do not know how many babies are shaken because SBS is not a legitimate disease classification diagnostic code, so no figures are collected.
Dr Anne Smith, medical director of the Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service, told me that when infants arrived in hospitals with injuries that might have been caused by trauma but there was no history of trauma, care-givers were rightly viewed with suspicion.
"Even when a story about trauma is offered by care-givers, it is important for doctors and nurses to question whether the story accounts for the observed findings and whether other causes might explain, or better explain, the child's condition," she said.
She said the consequences of a misdiagnosis of shaking were as serious as a missed diagnosis.
"On the one hand an innocent person might be jailed and on the other, an infant might be returned to an abusive home, possibly with fatal consequences," she said.
Several cases in the US and UK have put this debate on the radar this month and make us question whether there could be other explanations - perhaps a bump or an infection - for some of these injuries.
The Victorian Forensic Paediatric Medical Service is unique.
It provides evaluations of infants when shaking is suspected and gives expert opinion for child protection and the courts.
Importantly, it is staffed by a team of people who hold qualifications in both paediatric and forensic medicine - a model that could become standard practice worldwide.
Dr Smith said this unique mix enabled the team to consider a broad range of medical conditions that might be confused with shaking, as well as the forces and patterns of injury caused by shaking, impact and other causes of head injury - deliberate and accidental.
Last month, British mother Keran Henderson - who spent 18 months behind bars for the manslaughter of Maeve Sheppard - spoke for the first time as she considers another appeal over her conviction.
And in the US, a woman with an impeccable record in child care is serving 10 1/2 years after she was charged with shaking a baby boy in her care.
Keran Henderson spoke to investigative journalists Peter and Leni Gillman and her story was published in the UK's Sunday Times last month. In the article, there is no suggestion the syndrome does not happen - far from it - but it claims that in a minority of cases there must be room for doubt.
Mrs Henderson has always maintained she did not harm Maeve, but a pathologist gave evidence at her trial saying the injuries - the retinal haemorrhages, bleeding in the brain and bruising or swelling of the brain - indicated "a great deal of force".
There are 250 shaken-baby cases in Britain a year. Most are the result of abuse, but some experts suggest the syndrome is a theory that the legal and medical fraternities have accepted as fact.
The Gillmans wrote: "A second, equally determined group contends shaken-baby syndrome is a deficient theory that results in innocent carers and parents being jailed because of flawed science."
MRS Henderson told the Gillmans that for the two months she cared for Maeve in 2005 she was sickly, often grizzly and reluctant to eat.
Twice, she claimed, Maeve needed urgent medical attention - once seemingly for a seizure. Could that have indicated a previous injury or an illness such as meningitis?
Mrs Henderson was the last person to handle Maeve before the child arched her back and went floppy while her nappy was being changed.
And, as the last person to handle the baby, Mrs Henderson was blamed for her death.
British paediatric radiologist Dr Patrick Barnes testified against British nanny Louise Woodward in 1997 when she was accused of shaking baby Matthew Eappen before he died while in her care.
In the New York Times this year, writer Emily Bazelon said a lasting legacy of the Woodward case was the eventual conversion of Patrick Barnes from an upholder of the medical orthodoxy surrounding shaken-baby cases to one of its strongest critics.
In the US Trudy Rueda was accused of shaking Noah Whitmer when he was four months old.
Noah survived his injuries, though at two years he is still not talking and has vision problems.
Rueda, his carer, was sentenced to 10 1/2 years after six doctors testified that Noah's brain scans showed he had been abused. Another doctor offered it was possibly a rebleed, the result of trauma from birth.
Who do you believe?
And if shaken-baby syndrome confuses the medical and legal professions, how can a jury hope to decide guilt or innocence?
It will take some brave decision-makers and forensic investigators to thoroughly explore this truly terrifying problem so there is justice for all.