Thursday, 24 November 2011

SBS: Oklahoma: Raven Koch death homicide

November 16th, 2011,

DAVIS, Okla. -- An Oklahoma mom is seeking justice. Her 11-month-old daughter is dead. Raven Koch was at a babysitter's house when police reports show something went horribly wrong. The OSBI has investigated the case; however, so far they have not been able to name any suspects or make any arrests.
In fact, the family is starting to believe no one will ever face charges.
According to the Medical Examiner, Raven died of accute subdural hematoma due to shaken baby syndrome.
The case was ruled a homicide but to this day no arrests have been made.
Taryn Koch, Raven's mom, said, "It's very discouraging to know my daughter was murdered violently and no one will ever pay for it."
The Medical Examiner's report shows there was not only hemorrhaging on her brain, but that she had been shaken so violently her eyes were no longer attached.
The M.E. also said the abuse was recent.
While doctors at Children's Hospital told Taryn the injury was fresh, a doctor at the first hospital to treat Raven said it could have happened anytime within the two weeks leading up to that day.
Because of that doctor's analysis, investigators have to look at anyone who had contact with Raven in her last two weeks of life.
Taryn said, "Everyone has basically told me their hands are tied. Without a confession, nothing can be done."
The district attorney here in Murray County refused to do an on-camera interview with us.
However, he did tell us there are numerous people who could be potential suspects in this case.
He also said there is not enough evidence to prove any one person did this, which means there may never be justice for Raven.
Taryn said, "Crying myself to sleep the rest of my life isn't going to work."
Taryn said she doesn't want just anyone convicted, but she does hope the person responsible will some day come forward.
She said, "I miss Raven dearly and she deserves justice and I deserve closure."
Investigators are hoping someone out there has more information that could lead to an arrest and charges in this case.
If you have information, you are asked to contact the OSBI or the Murray County District Attorney's Office

SBS: AlabamaL Scott Durham arrested

 Wednesday, 23 Nov 2011, Candace Murphy

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) - A 6-month-old infant is on a ventilator after authorities said her father, Scott Durham, bounced her on a bed out of anger. Baldwin County Deputies said the alleged abuse happened November 18 in Foley.
They said Durham admitted to losing his temper due to stress and being tired. He told deputies he aggressively bounced the infant on the bed.
“Once we started the interview process and started to talk with him about it, within just a limited amount of time he ended making a statement and confessing to it,” said Baldwin County Sheriff Huey Mack. “What we find is even though these people assault children, in the back of their mind, they realize that’s not the proper thing to do, and so the guilt does starts to take over, and I think that was the case in this.”
The 6-month-old girl suffered a hemorrhage on the brain and severe retinal hemorrhage. She was air lifted by Life-Flight to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, where she is still in intensive care.
“The nature of the injuries fall in line with what we call shaken baby syndrome, and that’s simply where a child’s head is moved about so violently that it causes an internal injury,” said Mack.
Durham has been charged with first degree domestic violence and is at the Baldwin County Corrections Center under no bond.
Officials said this is the third time Durham has been arrested in the past two years for domestic violence. They want to keep him in jail as long as they can.
“We're hoping not only for the judge to set for a high bond, but we typically ask for conditions [in addition to] bond, such as no contact with the family, can’t return to the residence - those type of things,” said Mack.
Neighbors FOX10 spoke with said the child's mother just got back from being with her daughter in Pensacola. She was too upset to speak with us.

SBS: Rioc Edwards-Brown false accusation

By Beth Hale 24th November 2011

Devoted: Rioch Edwards-Brown now helps other families who are wrongly accused of hurting their children
Devoted: Rioch Edwards-Brown now helps other families who are wrongly accused of hurting their children
Cradling her baby son, TV researcher Rioch Edwards-Brown stared in disbelief at the two social workers standing before her in the hospital room. Their lips were moving but she could barely make sense of what they were saying.
It was a moment that would fill any loving parent with horror. Rioch had just been told her six-month-old son Riordan — the baby she and her husband Ian had longed for — would be removed from her care in three days’ time.
Paralysed with shock, all she could focus on was the tiny bundle curled up against her chest and the voice inside her head telling her to breathe.
The memories of that Friday afternoon are as sharp today as they were 16 years ago.
‘For a split-second I couldn’t remember how to breathe,’ says the 46-year-old mother-of-four. ‘I couldn’t even tell you my name.’
Rioch and Ian found themselves thrust into a nightmare after a doctor decided their son’s ill health from birth — culminating in an unexplained fit — was caused by shaken baby syndrome. In other words, the caring parents were suspected of  shaking Riordan until his brain bled.
The suspicions were unjustified. Medical notes would later back up the fact Riordan had suffered a brain bleed during his premature birth, but by that time child protection proceedings had started — and seemed unstoppable. There were three court hearings and Rioch and Ian fought for nearly a decade to clear their names.
Today, that tiny fragile baby is a strapping young man who loves sport and is studying for A-levels after gaining 12 GCSEs. As for Rioch, she gave up her job working alongside her TV producer husband and started helping other parents facing similar ordeals.


For 15 years, without pay or outside funding, she has run The Five Percenters, a support group that takes its name from the fact that one in 20 cases of shaken baby syndrome is misdiagnosed. From a desk in the living room of her family home in New Cross, South-East London, Rioch, runs the 24-hour free advisory service.
Rioch and Ian’s fight for justice cost £50,000, but since then they have remortgaged their home and spent £250,000 funding the support group in the hope that other parents accused of shaking their babies or other abuse are spared the agony they faced.
Longed for son: Rioch with Riordan when he was two-years-old. She had to launch a legal batle to keep him after being falsely accused of shaken baby syndrome
Longed for son: Rioch with Riordan when he was two-years-old. She had to launch a legal batle to keep him after being falsely accused of shaken baby syndrome
Rioch — who also battled a benign brain tumour in 2009 — never imagined the nightmare ahead when she met Ian in 1990.
Their early hopes for children were cruelly crushed when she suffered a series of miscarriages caused by a cervical condition which doctors cured. She went on to have Riordan in 1995. He was born six weeks early, weighing 6lb 3oz.
The couple were delighted, although Rioch soon doubted his health. ‘He’d cry then suddenly stop,’ she said. ‘He looked beaten up, like he’d gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.’
Over the following months Riordan’s fragile health meant frequent tests.
‘Eventually, a doctor said he had suffered a brain bleed commonly associated with premature babies,’ recalls Rioch. ‘As we were leaving she said, “You haven’t ever dropped him have you?” I laughed and said, “No.” ’
But Rioch had a niggling doubt something more serious was wrong.
A week later, Riordan suffered a fit and ended up back at King’s College Hospital, London.
Days of tests and questions followed. ‘When the consultant told us Riordan had suffered the sort of bleed they would expect to see in a child with a lot of trauma I just couldn’t take in.
‘Ian said, “Do you mean like a boxer’s punch?”
She replied, “Yes, or Riordan being shaken and swung around by the ankles against a hard surface.”
‘I was told that if I made any attempt to leave the ward the police would be called.’
Mother and son today: Riordan has grown up to be strong and healthy despite his health problems as a child
Mother and son today: Riordan has grown up to be strong and healthy despite his health problems as a child
Rioch suddenly realised the finger of suspicion was pointing at her and Ian — and they were devastated when two social workers revealed they would apply to take Riordan into care within days.
Reeling with shock, they sought legal help and were able to keep Riordan. Three months later, with clear medical evidence pointing to injuries caused by birth trauma rather than abuse, a High Court judge threw out their case.
However, it took eight years before the shaken baby accusation was removed from council and hospital records.
Rioch and Ian went on to have three more children, but were terrified each time one fell sick, fearful they could be accused again.
‘I couldn’t afford for Riordan to get as much as a bruise,’ she says.
‘It was after I did a television interview and 40 families got in touch that I thought about starting the Five Percenters. I found myself wondering how a family without the support and contacts we had would ever stand up against this?’
Over the past 15 years Rioch has helped more than 4,000 families worldwide facing a similar ordeal. ‘Of course, it is disgusting that genuine abuse exists,’ she adds.
‘There will always be people who say they are innocent and are not. But I feel we have a duty to people like us who are wrongly accused. We were told we were a “one-off”, a mistake. But if they can make a mistake once, they can do it again.’
 Rioch’s vision, called 24:14, is for a nationwide hospital protocol ensuring all children suspected of being abuse victims are seen by paediatric specialists within 24 hours of admission and for the case to be reviewed within 14 days — sparing the agony of misdiagnosis and cases slipping through the net.
‘Doctors said Riordan wouldn’t walk, talk or swallow,’ she says. ‘But he is now built like a rugby player, eats me out of house and home and never stops talking. He’s amazing.
‘When people say to me, “Why do you do what you do?” I tell them that I have my kids when the majority of families who come to me don’t. I consider myself very fortunate.’

SBS: New York State: Asa Madsen arrested

11/21/2011  Dan Levy

Bill Phelps
Bill Phelps

SCHENECTADY - The father of a baby who police say was abused to the point where she is now blind says the mother is also partially to blame.
Troy police arrested the mother's boyfriend, 30-year-old Asa Madsen of Averill Park on Friday. Now Bill Phelps, who lost all parental rights with his daughter Lia several months ago, although heartbroken, hasn't given up hope that his daughter will one day recover from her injuries or that he'll one day regain custody.
Even though Phelps hasn't been able to establish the kind of father-daughter relationship he would like, in the limited time he's been able to spend with Lia he's learned quite a bit.
"She's very smart," he boasted proudly. "She's lovable. She loves to snuggle and she loves to kiss daddy."
On Tuesday of this week, Phelps got a call from the baby's mother, Beth Taber, telling him Lia had fallen in the bathtub and hit her head and was then rushed to Albany Medical Center.
"When the final report came back from the neurosurgeon, they said that there was no possible way that the baby just fell," Phelps said. "That's when they came up with the shaken baby syndrome."
On that diagnosis, police arrested Madsen and charged him with shaking little Lia so violently she is now blind.
"I tried to say to Beth, you're just as guilty as him. If he's hitting you what makes you think he's not going to hit the children?" is what he posed to his ex-girlfriend of eight years with whom he fathered two children.
Phelps says he's well aware of Madsen's violent past. As a teenager, he was charged with killing his then-girl friend's cat. Earlier this year Madsen was slapped with a court order to stay away from Taber and her children after he allegedly tried to choke her.
"I have tried to work things out several times to get her away from the situation, but it never worked out," Phelps said. "She always wanted to be back with him for what ever reason I don't know."
He continued, "In my opinion, just be her covering and the events that happened from that day until now, she's just as guilty as he is. Whether she did it or not, or he did it, she covered for him to save her own hide, while the baby is sitting in the hospital."
Phelps says Lia is making progress every day and that she's playing and alert and may be released later this week.
He and Taber also have a 2-year-old son who is now staying with relatives. Phelps says he intends to be at Rensselaer County Family Court on Monday morning to file for custody of his children.
Madsen remains in the Rensselaer County Jail unable to make bail.
Police say the investigation is continuing.

SBS: South Africa: Makinda and Bradley Connor's child dies

1st December 2011
Baby Michael, blinded and crippled both physically and mentally after ferocious assaults in the family home only months after his birth, has died, aged eight.
Baby Michael
Michael’s death – of broncho-pneumonia, on 16 October – came just a month before his parents, Malinda Marshall and Bradley Connor, were due to face judgment on November 21 in the Johannesburg Regional Court, on charges of attempted murder and assault on their infant son.

Their case, which has been extensively reported in Noseweek (noses108, 121, 130 etc) has been dragging on for years, with one legal ploy after another used to delay the day of reckoning.  Magistrate Frans Booyens has had to come out of retirement to conclude the case in Court 17.

Senior prosecutor Carina Coetzee says it was too late to change the assault charges to murder as Michael’s death came long after the original assaults.

Baby Michael, born on 11 July 2003, was taken into care in 2007 at Avril Elizabeth, a private residential home in Germiston for the mentally disabled. He lived in a section of the home called the Nursery, where he received 24-hour care. He attended physiotherapy daily, and although he didn’t progress much, did not deteriorate.

Officially, after his beatings at age two to four months, Michael had Shaken Baby Syndrome. In addition to being blind he was spastic, quadriplegic and was profoundly mentally handicapped. He was confined to a wheelchair but after prolonged physiotherapy was able to hold up his head without support, albeit for short periods of time.

Nursing sister Stephanie says: “Although profoundly mentally and physically handicapped, he was comfortable and had a reasonable quality of life for four-and-a-half years at Avril Elizabeth. He seldom cried for no reason and seemed content.”

Michael had a host mother, Gwen Hedges, who has a mentally challenged child. Gwen visited Michael frequently at Avril Elizabeth, and took him out for family birthdays and celebrations. “We were shattered by the news, but we rest in the peace that Mickey is finally free,” she says.

Michael’s parents never saw him again – Avril Elizabeth only agreed to accept him on condition they were banned from the premises.

Because of Michael’s mental and physical condition he was unable to move. This immobility caused build-ups of phlegm in his lungs, leaving the boy susceptible to chest infections, resulting in bronchitis or pneumonia. As with many mentally-handicapped people who are unable to communicate other than by crying, it was often difficult to establish what the problem was, and nursing staff would go through a process of elimination.

From August this year, Michael had not been well, and spent several sessions in Avril Elizabeth’s sick bay, the Life Healthcare Roseacres Hospital (where he had a CT scan), and at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital. Staff remember Michael as a generally happy little boy, “our treasured little angel” much loved by all.

Baby Michael’s story has highlighted the dedication and commitment of charitable institutions such as Avril Elizabeth and their belief that every life has value, even that of a grievously brain-damaged child – if only for his uplifting smile.

A Noseweek staff member who visited Baby Michael recalls the boy’s beautiful smile. “Look!” would cry the nursing attendant, “he knows it’s you!”

SBS: Oklahoma: Helen Terrell charged

Monday, 7 November 2011

SBS: North Carolina: Cheryl Alston trial


HILLSBOROUGH – After calling two doctors and a biomechanical engineer who questioned the theory that shaking a baby can cause traumatic brain injury, the defense rested its case Friday in the trial of Cheryl McAdoo Alston.
The state began its rebuttal evidence Friday morning, and it is expected that closing arguments will begin early next week.
Alston is facing charges in connection with injuries to a 5-month-old baby that was in her care in Chapel Hill on May 1, 2009. The state contends that Alston shook or otherwise injured the baby, who suffered serious brain injuries that have left him with permanent disabilities requiring him to undergo nearly constant therapy.
Assistant Public Defender Susan Seahorn began her defense of Alston by calling Alston to the stand. Alston adamantly denied hurting the baby in any way, but during cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Lamar Proctor pointed out several inconsistencies in the story she told about what happened that day.
The prosecution focused on where the baby was just before Alston claims she noticed something was wrong with him.
During questioning by investigators, which the jurors saw on videotape, Alston insisted that she had put the baby in a bassinette in a room for his afternoon nap and when he woke up, he was cheerful and happy.
Alston said she changed his soiled diaper and was washing her hands when she realized something was wrong with the baby and he began having a seizure. She was on the phone with the 911 operator when the father arrived that afternoon to pick his son up.
On the videotape, however, after the investigator told her about evidence that called into question her story about where the baby had been sleeping, she then admitted the baby had been in the car seat before she changed his diaper.
The investigator suggested that she had been keeping the baby in the car seat, which is against day care regulations, because she had previously injured the baby and was keeping a close watch on him by carrying him around in the car seat while she went about her other business.
Seahorn, however, in her cross-examinations of the state’s witnesses, which included the baby’s father, focused on inconsistencies in their statements, including a radiologist who changed his report just before the trial.
Seahorn’s expert witnesses testified that in the last decade, some doctors have begun to question whether the theory of shaken baby syndrome is correct. Treating doctors have diagnosed the syndrome based on injuries they’ve seen on babies’ brains, and then investigators, armed with that knowledge, have gone looking for the person who most likely shook the baby and charged that person with a crime even though there was no other evidence other than the doctor’s diagnosis that the baby had been shaken.
Seahorn’s theory of the case is that the treating doctors don’t really know what caused the injury on the baby’s brain. She presented one witness, a biomechanical engineer who conducted tests on a doll at his home, who contended that shaking a baby does not produce enough force to cause those types of injuries.
During the trial, Proctor and Seahorn have periodically sparred angrily with each other, raising their voices and jumping up out of their seats to interrupt the other, both in front of the jury and outside the jury’s presence.
Each has offered multiple objections to the other’s evidence and witnesses forcing Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan to repeatedly send the jury back to the jury room so he could hear their arguments outside of the jury’s presence.

: The Herald-Sun - Defense claims shaken baby syndrome theory is wrong

SBS: Virginia: Amy Hunter charged

Kari PughThe Naval Criminal Investigative Service has charged a 25-year-old Quantico woman with shaking to death a baby in her care.
Amy Hunter, 25, admitted to violently shaking a 9-month-old girl she regularly babysat at her home on Quantico Marine Corps base on April 26, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Oct. 17.
Hunter was watching the baby, identified in court papers only as C.P., along with her own 10-month-old daughter, the complaint said.
Hunter called 911 at 9:23 a.m. reporting the baby girl was unconscious after taking a fall and hitting "the back of her head really hard," the complaint reads.
The infant was airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she was pronounced brain dead. Her family took her off life support on April 28.
An autopsy revealed the baby suffered from skull fractures, soft tissue swelling, a subdural hematoma and severe retinal hemorrhages consistent with shaken baby syndrome, the complaint stated. She also had a healing rib fracture that appeared to be several weeks old.
Hunter first told investigators she had gone to the bathroom and the infant had fallen backwards and hit the back of her head on a lower chair rail, the complaint stated. She said she picked up the unconscious baby and called her mother, who told Hunter to call 911, according to the complaint.
During a second interview investigators conducted with Hunter on April 27, she "admitted that on the morning of April 26 … she repeatedly shook C.P., causing C.P.'s head to strike the wall," the complaint stated.
A search of a computer seized from Hunter's home revealed that between January and April, someone with access to the computer conducted several searches related to "shaken baby syndrome" and "baby hits back of head," according to the complaint. The first search was conducted Jan. 6, 2011 and the others on the morning of April 26.

SBS: Coloradfo: Shawna Nacke indicted

LEADVILLE, Colorado — Lake County social services took a 7-month-old boy away from his parents, and the woman they placed him with is now charged with felony child abuse after allegedly inflicting injuries that may leave the child blind.
A grand jury indicted Shawna Nacke, of Leadville, on two felony counts of child abuse and one misdemeanor count. Nacke turned herself in and is free on $20,000 bond.
The case goes directly to Lake County District Court and Judge Karen Romeo.
Nacke faces up to 32 years in prison. The grand jury indicted her on charges of:
• Class 3 felony child abuse. Knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily to a child.
• Class 4 felony child abuse. Negligently causing serious bodily injury to a child.
• Class 2 misdemeanor child abuse. Negligently causing bodily injury to a child.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert says they don't know yet whether they'll go for the maximum sentence.
Nacke makes her first court appearance Nov. 28.
The boy was shaken enough that he suffered “significant” brain swelling and had to have surgery to relieve the pressure, Hurlbert said.
“He's alive. There's the potential that he could be blind,” Hurlbert said.
What the police report says
At about 8 a.m. July 15, Leadville police responded to 321 Mount Harvard in Leadville when Nacke called them about an unresponsive baby, according to the arrest affidavit.
When police and paramedics arrived, the baby was taken to Saint Vincent's hospital, and quickly flown by Flight for Life to Children's Hospital in Aurora. Firefighters reported the baby was breathing on its own, that its right eye was partially closed and its left eye was open and the pupil was dilated. Its right leg had multiple bruises, Leadville/Lake County fire fighter John Ortiz said in the arrest affidavit.
Nacke agreed to speak to police and told them a toy being dropped on him by his brother caused the child's bruises, himself a toddler, that the toddler tripped and fell on him, and the leg bruises were caused by a swing.
When the boy woke up that morning, Nacke called 911 when she thought the boy was having a seizure, she told police.
Their father, Donald Nacke, had been to their house the previous night after she had gone to work, so he could put his children to bed.
Social services placed the children with Shawna Nacke and her husband because their mother has substance abuse issues, she told police. The children's father is Nacke's husband's brother.
She told police she would take a polygraph test, the affidavit says.
Dr. Lisa Zwerlinger told police that the child's mother used alcohol and drugs while she was pregnant, and as a result the child “developmentally challenged.” He's nine months old and cannot roll over on his own, according to the doctor's statement in the arrest affidavit.
Grand jury convened
Dr. Andy Sirotnick, associate professor of pediatrics and a member of the child protection team at Children's Hospital, testified that the boy's injuries would not have happened the night before, saying that if the injury had happened the night before the boy would not have survived.
The boy is going to be blind due to being a victim of shaken baby syndrome, and that because Nacke was the only adult at the residence when emergency services were called, “we can conclude that Mrs. Nacke caused the injuries,” according to Sirotnick's statement in the arrest affidavit.
This was only the second Fifth Judicial District grand jury convened since the 1960s, Hurlbert said.
Judge Romeo convened the 12-person grand jury from around the Fifth Judicial District's four counties: Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek.
They heard five days of testimony before indicting Nacke on Oct. 5.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

SBS: Physicians required by law to report

SHERRY BOSCHERT, Family Practice News Digital Network
SAN FRANCISCO – The color of a bruise indicates its age. You’ll almost always see bruising when a child has a fracture. Sexual abuse leaves behind physical exam findings.
These are all myths that can get in the way of physicians recognizing abuse of an infant or child. Physicians are required by law to report all suspicions of nonaccidental trauma, a catch-all term for child abuse, shaken baby syndrome, and battered-child syndrome.

Dr. Maureen D. McCollough
Physicians can meet that obligation by ignoring these myths, recognizing red flags for nonaccidental trauma, and being familiar with signs of accidental trauma or medical conditions that can mimic the physical findings of nonaccidental trauma, Dr. Maureen D. McCollough said at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
Myth: The age of bruises can be accurately determined by their color – red, purple, yellow, green, or brown. In reality, there is no predictable order or chronology of color in bruising, and even in the same person bruises of similar ages may have different colors, said Dr. McCollough of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and director of pediatric emergency medicine at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center.
Studies have shown poor interobserver reliability in assessing bruise coloring and poor physician accuracy in characterizing coloring.
Red flags of suspicion should go up if you see multiple bruises or lacerations, or see them in unusual locations. Accidental toddler tumbles can produce multiple bruises, but generally these are on bony prominences. Unusual locations for pediatric bruising include the lower back, buttocks, cheeks, ears, or neck. Bruising anywhere in an infant who is not yet mobile is suspicious.
"Remember, if you don’t cruise, you don’t bruise," she said.
Be suspicious if the pattern of the marks, bruises, or lacerations remind you of an object like a hand, hairbrush, belt, or buckle. Bruises around wrists or extremities may be from the child being tied up. Tight elastic socks can leave a mark around an infant’s leg that mimics this, in which case the parent should be able to provide a sock with dimensions that match the bruising.
Visible injuries around a baby’s mouth or frenulum should raise a red flag for forced feeding. Genital injuries may indicate forced toilet training. Hair pulling produces characteristic marks of traumatic alopecia – an incompletely bald child with diffuse alopecia, broken hairs, and no loose hairs at the periphery.
A wide variety of problems can mimic the visual signs of nonaccidental bruising, including dermal melanosis, vitamin K deficiency, leukemia, hemophilia, millipede secretions, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, dermatitis, lice, and more.
An equally impressive array of events can mimic the look of abusive burns, bullae, and erythema. These include the cultural practices of coining, cupping, spooning, or moxibustion, skin infections, allergic reactions, herpes or varicella infection, diaper dermatitis, impetigo, and more.
Accidental burns usually have a typical "splash" pattern if liquid is involved, or a child who grasps something hot will have burns on the volar aspect of the fingers and palm. Accidental cigarette burns usually have a streaky appearance.
If there are no splash marks, or there is a sharp line of demarcation, or burns are limited to the perineum, consider that the child may have been forcibly immersed in something hot. Intentional cigarette burns tend to be similar in size – often 5-mm circles – and create injuries from bullae to deep craters that scab over. These usually are on the palms or soles but can be anywhere on the body. Again, be suspicious if you see a burn mark that looks like an object, such as a radiator or an iron.
Myth: Fractures usually are associated with overlying bruising. In fact, children with inflicted skeletal fractures often have no associated bruising. Bruising is present in only 43% of skull fractures and less than 20% of lower extremity fractures in cases of abuse, Dr. McCollough said.
Infants who can’t walk shouldn’t fracture. Spiral fractures caused by the twisting of a long bone such as the femur suggest nonaccidental trauma. Toddler spiral fractures of the tibia, on the other hand, are very common, caused when a leg is trapped under the body during a fall, such as getting a leg caught in a couch. "This is not abuse," she said.
Raise the red flags when you see swelling of a body part that is out of proportion to a described injury; this may indicate an underlying fracture. A diaphyseal (midshaft) fracture in a child less than 3 years old is suspect, and metaphyseal or epiphyseal fractures beyond the newborn period (also called corner fractures or bucket handle fractures) are virtually diagnostic of abuse.
The posterior ribs are the most common area of nonaccidental rib fractures.
Suspect head injuries and possible abuse if the child has unexplained seizures, vomiting, changes in neurological or mental status, or large scalp hematomas. Be suspicious if the parents’ explanation changes over time, if there is intracranial bleeds after "minimal" trauma, or if you find retinal hemorrhages outside of the newborn period, she said.
Myth: Sexual abuse leaves physical findings. More myths: A colposcope is needed to detect sexual abuse, and some girls are born without hymens.
Although hymens come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, a study of more than 1,100 newborn girls showed that all of them had one, she noted. Reviews of cases of sexual abuse show that physical exam findings of pediatric sexual abuse are rare because the tissue is very elastic and heals quickly.
Physical evidence will be more likely if force was used, if the child resisted, if there are great differences in the sizes and ages of the perpetrator and victim, and if a foreign object was forced into the mouth, vagina, or anus. Bruising or bite marks on a child’s penis may suggest nonaccidental trauma from forced toilet training.
When you see visible clues to what may be abuse, photograph or draw what you see and include something in the image to show size or scale. Don’t just rely on written notes, she said.

SBS: Virginia: Brian Ferris

October 23, 2011

SBS: Virginia: Paul Farthing denied probation

Lorie Love Hailey   
RICHMOND — Family members of a baby killed by her father in 2010 breathed sighs of relief Thursday when a motion to grant shock probation to her killer was denied.
Jean Williamson, grandmother of 3-month-old Rylee Jean Campbell, thanked Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Smith as she hugged her in Madison Circuit Court.
Paul Sanlan Farthing Jr., 32, was sentenced in May to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter in his daughter’s death. He originally was charged with murder.
Attorney Jim Baechtold asked Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue to consider shock probation because, he said, Farthing is a first-time felon who already has served 544 days in jail.
“I’m sure we’re going to be agreeing to disagree on whether shock probation is appropriate,” Baechtold said.
Farthing is eligible for parole in about 114 days, the attorney said, but if Logue shocks him, she would have control over the conditions of his release.
Smith argued the only reason Farthing is “in the situation that he is” is because there were no witnesses.
“Rylee Campbell was a beautiful little baby and he killed her,” she said.
Farthing was arrested for his daughter’s death on April 14, 2010, after she died at the University of Kentucky Medical Center from what doctors there said was shaken-baby syndrome. She suffered from multiple injuries.
The baby had been in Farthing’s care prior to her injuries.
His mother told the Register the infant’s injuries occurred accidentally, while her maternal grandmother repeatedly disputed the story.
“Who is going to stick up for Rylee?” Williamson asked the Register on multiple occasions.
On Thursday, it seemed that Logue would fill that role.
“In this particular case, and I’ve reviewed it, it is one that I just don’t find appropriate to grant probation,” the judge ruled.
Farthing’s 10-year sentence was left unchanged, but because second-degree manslaughter is not considered a violent crime, Farthing must only serve 15 percent — or 1 1/2 years — of his sentence before being eligible for parole.
Lorie Love Hailey can be reached at or 624-6690.

SBS: Pennsylvania: Kristopher Trescoe hearing

 October 20, 2011
A father accused of shaking his baby was in court on Thursday, where a doctor talked about the boy’s injuries.
Kristopher Trescoe and his wife came to his preliminary hearing together. Police said Trescoe was home alone with his five-month-old twins when his son became unresponsive.
Thursday was the first time the courtroom heard from the doctor who examined the baby. The doctor, from Children's Hospital, read a report she wrote that was several pages long.
The report said the baby needed "aggressive life support" and had several "seizures."
The report also said the baby "was born a healthy child" and the injuries are a result of "shaken baby syndrome."
Trescoe's attorneys disagreed with those findings.
"A lot of medical testing still needs to occur. We're still waiting for that, and Scott and I are both very confident, as well as Richie's mother and father, when all the medical records are compiled and given to us, it's going to be a very different case than the commonwealth presented this morning," said attorney William Brandstetter.
The attorney said the child could suffer from an illness, and that would explain the child's condition. He said the baby is now at home recovering.

SBS: Oklahoma: Raven Koch, 1, was found unresponsive May 3 at a baby sitter's home


Raven Koch, of Davis, was found unresponsive at the home of a baby sitter on May 3 and later died at an Oklahoma City hospital.

FROM STAFF REPORTS     October 22, 2011
A child fatally injured while in the care of a baby sitter died from shaken baby syndrome, the state medical examiner reported Friday. The report ruled the child's death a homicide.

Raven Koch, 1, was found unresponsive May 3 at a baby sitter's home in Davis after reportedly being shaken, the report said. Raven initially was taken to Arbuckle Memorial Hospital in Sulphur on the day of the injury. Later that day, she was transferred to OU Medical Center to undergo surgery to treat an acute subdural hematoma. She died May 4.
A subdural hematoma is a collection of blood outside the brain usually caused by severe head injuries.
Along with the subdural hematoma, Raven was found to have had retinal hemorrhages and a soft tissue hemorrhage in her eyes.
According to the report Raven had no broken bones. Her internal organs, other than her brain, were otherwise healthy and well developed. There were no signs of sexual abuse. The report also said there were no signs of recent vaccinations or reports of an injury by falling.
An obituary published in The Daily Ardmoreite said Raven is survived by her mother, Taryn Koch, of the home, and her father, Derrick Bennett, of Arkansas.
Raven was described as a child with an ever-present smile that brought joy to all who came in contact with her. The obituary said Raven liked to dance, listen to music and play patty-cake.

SBS: Arizona: Casey Brandon Rose chareged

October 26, 2011 3:35 pm
Jackson County District Attorney Charlie Rhodes said Wednesday an investigation is ongoing in a case involving a Scottsboro man who has been accused of severely injuring his two-month old son. 
Casey Brandon Rose, 30, remains in the Jackson County Jail on a $100,000 bond, charged with domestic violence first degree. 
Rose was arrested Oct. 15 after Scottsboro Police Department investigators received a call from Huntsville Hospital and DHR regarding the child's condition after he showed signs of injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
Shaken baby syndrome is a type of inflicted traumatic brain injury that happens when a baby is violently shaken. Shaking makes a baby's fragile brain bounce back and forth inside the skull causing bruising, swelling and bleeding, which can lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death.
According to Scottsboro Police Captain Barry Capps, the baby has been moved from intensive care at the hospital into a regular room.
"He's now able to drink and eat without a feeding tube," said Capps. 
However, the child remains with "significant injuries," according to Rhodes. 
Rhodes said Rose's charge of felony domestic violence remains the same. He said the case will, at some point, likely go before a grand jury.
Rhodes said part of the investigation is seeking all medical records of the child, adding how prosecutors proceed depends on a final diagnosis or prognosis of the child.

SBS: Virginia: Amy Hunter charged

A Quantico woman has been accused of shaking a baby in her care in April, causing fatal injuries to the nine-month-old girl, according to court papers.
Amy Hunter, who lived on the Marine Corps but was not a Marine, was charged earlier in October with second-degree murder in federal court in Virginia.
Hunter was caring for the baby, as well as her own young daughter, on April 26 when she called 911 and said the baby had “hit the back of her head really hard,”according to an affidavit written by Andrea David, special agent for the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Hunter told authorities that she had gone to the bathroom and returned to find the baby standing and holding onto a chair. When she said the child’s name, Hunter said, the baby fell backwards and struck her head on a chair rail.
The baby suffered from skull fractures, swelling and other injuries, according to court papers. She was removed from life support on April 28.
In a follow-up interview, court papers say, Hunter admitted she “repeatedly shook” the child, causing the baby’s head to hit the wall. She said she also had shaken the baby about three weeks earlier.
A search of Hunter’s computer showed that between January and April someone had searched “shaken baby syndrome” and “baby hits back of head” several times, according to court papers.
Hunter’s lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment.

Pediatrics. 2011 Nov;128(5):1030-9. Epub 2011 Oct 17.


Despite a major decrease in the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) since the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released its recommendation in 1992 that infants be placed for sleep in a nonprone position, this decline has plateaued in recent years. Concurrently, other causes of sudden unexpected infant death that occur during sleep (sleep-related deaths), including suffocation, asphyxia, and entrapment, and ill-defined or unspecified causes of death have increased in incidence, particularly since the AAP published its last statement on SIDS in 2005. It has become increasingly important to address these other causes of sleep-related infant death. Many of the modifiable and nonmodifiable risk factors for SIDS and suffocation are strikingly similar. The AAP, therefore, is expanding its recommendations from focusing only on SIDS to focusing on a safe sleep environment that can reduce the risk of all sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS. The recommendations described in this policy statement include supine positioning, use of a firm sleep surface, breastfeeding, room-sharing without bed-sharing, routine immunizations, consideration of using a pacifier, and avoidance of soft bedding, overheating, and exposure to tobacco smoke, alcohol, and illicit drugs. The rationale for these recommendations is discussed in detail in the accompanying "Technical Report-SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment," which is included in this issue of Pediatrics (

SIDS: California: Sheila Caceres arrested

Sacramento County's former "family child care provider of the year" was arrested Thursday on a charge of felony child neglect in the February death of an infant in her care.
Sheila Caceres, a 31-year-old mother of three, turned herself in at the Sacramento County jail Thursday night, where she was expected to be booked and then released on $50,000 bail, authorities said.
She had operated Sheila's Garden Daycare from her 2,800-square-foot home since 2005.
Caceres had been under investigation in the Feb. 23 death of 2-month-old Avin Rominger, who was found unresponsive in the upstairs of her Mather home.
She also is being charged with "repeatedly" violating the state Health and Safety Code by placing unattended infants in the upstairs of her home, while watching older children on the first floor.
Caceres faces up to eight years in prison if convicted of felony child neglect.
"My husband and I are very pleased with the District Attorney's Office for continuing with these charges," Rachelle Rominger, Avin's mother, said late Thursday. "We feel this is the start of the justice process for our son."
Caceres' arrest stands in stark contrast to the image she presented in February 2008, when the Sacramento Child Care Coalition honored her as provider of the year at a downtown gala. Nominated by parents, she was lauded by government leaders and education professionals for her "commitment to building strong, trusting relationships" and her welcoming spirit.
Three years later, the woman praised for pumpkin patch outings and backyard barbecues was being pursued by both the Sheriff's Department and the California Department of Social Services.
Sheriff's detectives say the case proved difficult to untangle because Caceres told conflicting stories about what happened to the baby that winter day.
According to Dave Rominger, Avin's father, Caceres greeted him as usual around 4 p.m. and calmly went upstairs, then came running back down screaming for him to call 911.
But Caceres initially told a detective she found Avin unresponsive in a downstairs crib. Later, she amended her version, telling Detective Darin Pometta that she left Avin sleeping upstairs in a car seat and sometime that afternoon found him unresponsive.
She said she picked him up, then placed him on his side in a portable playpen, rubbed his back and went downstairs until Dave Rominger arrived, Pometta told The Bee.
The baby was later pronounced dead at Mercy San Juan Medical Center.
"The reality is, with immediate medical intervention, Avin might have had a chance to live," said Sgt. Jeff Reinl of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Child Abuse Unit.
"Sheila's action – or inaction – eliminated any possibility for him to survive."
Reinl said Caceres' role as a trained, professional child care provider factored into her arrest. He said Caceres would be expected to provide "a higher standard of care than if you had teenagers next door watching your kids."
Caceres did not respond to numerous requests for comment from The Bee last month, but the attorney who handled her licensing case with the state said Caceres had nothing to do with Avin's death.
For the Romingers, the arrest of a neighbor they entrusted with Avin and his older sister marks a critical juncture in their search for legal justice.
But it does little to explain the medical mystery that still shrouds the death of their second child.
While the public has become familiar with a finding of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, that was not the case with Avin. Following an autopsy, the Sacramento County Coroner's Office listed his cause of death as sudden unexpected infant death, or SUID – an important distinction.
SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant under 1 year old that cannot be explained after a thorough investigation. It is, says Sacramento County Coroner Gregory Wyatt, a "finding of exclusion."
In contrast, sudden unexpected infant death is a broader classification that applies to any sudden and unexpected death of a child under 1, whether explained or unexplained. About half of these are due to SIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A sudden explained death might be caused by infections, poisoning or an accidental suffocation.
The manner of death in Avin's case was ruled "undetermined" – meaning the coroner could not conclude whether it was natural, accidental or homicide. But the pathologist noted that the delay in calling 911 was "a factor of concern since it is unknown if he could have been revived from whatever event caused his death."
In a similar case, a day care operator in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was charged this month with two felonies after a 5-month-old infant died in her care. As with Avin, the baby's cause of death was ruled to be sudden unexpected infant death.
Since Avin's death, Rach- elle and Dave Rominger said, they have been ostracized and shunned by other parents who used the day care, blaming them for Caceres' legal woes.
Caceres' day care license was suspended after Avin's death. State licensing documents show she also faced a number of other allegations, including lying to law enforcement, violating fire safety clearance, letting a child wander away from the home and engaging in sex in front of at least one child in her care.
Last month, in a deal struck with the state Department of Social Services, she agreed to a lifetime ban on operating, working in or being present in a day care home.

Read more:

SIDS: Idaho: Adriana Torres-Jaquez sentenced

RUPERT, Idaho — A 23-year-old woman whose 5-month-old daughter was left unattended and died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome while she was at work has been sentenced to two years probation.
The Times-News ( reports that Adriana Torres-Jaquez also received a 180-day suspended jail sentence last week in 5th District Court.
Authorities say Jasmine Salinas died July 5 after she was left without a caregiver.
Minidoka County Prosecutor Lance Stevenson says prosecutors aren't arguing the death could have been prevented, but that they felt there were criminal actions in the case due to a lack of attention.
Information from: The Times-News, 

SIDS: Michigan: 2nd death in family

Montcalm County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the sudden death of a 25-day-old infant girl in Stanton, the second infant in the family to die.
The 25-year-old mother had another infant succumb about five years earlier under the same circumstances, said Undersheriff Mark Bellinger.
Deputies remember the earlier incident that concerned the death of a 45-day-old baby girl, he said.
No charges have been filed on this baby’s death, but police are continuing to investigate.
Emergency services were called  in Stanton at 4:50 a.m. Saturday after being told the baby had stopped breathing.
Following attempts at resuscitation, the baby was taken to Sheridan Community Hospital where she was pronounced dead.
An autopsy is being performed, Bellinger said.
Police are not releasing information where the baby was sleeping; whether she was in a crib or in bed with an adult, Bellinger said.
However, it is believed that alcohol was not a factor in the incident, he said.
Also, “There is no indication the baby was sick,” he said.
Physicians who conducted the autopsy of the baby girl who died five years ago ruled that she had died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Bellinger said he believes the mother has other children but he isn’t sure where they are living.
The father of the baby was at home at the time of the death, Bellinger said.
“We are treating this like any other death of a child,” Bellinger said. “(The mother) has not been charged. We will continue to investigate.”

SBS: Brittle bone disease: Osteogenesis Imperfecta


A new paradigm has emerged for osteogenesis imperfecta as a collagen-related disorder. The more prevalent autosomal dominant forms of osteogenesis imperfecta are caused by primary defects in type I collagen, whereas autosomal recessive forms are caused by deficiency of proteins which interact with type I procollagen for post-translational modification and/or folding. Factors that contribute to the mechanism of dominant osteogenesis imperfecta include intracellular stress, disruption of interactions between collagen and noncollagenous proteins, compromised matrix structure, abnormal cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions and tissue mineralization. Recessive osteogenesis imperfecta is caused by deficiency of any of the three components of the collagen prolyl 3-hydroxylation complex. Absence of 3-hydroxylation is associated with increased modification of the collagen helix, consistent with delayed collagen folding. Other causes of recessive osteogenesis imperfecta include deficiency of the collagen chaperones FKBP10 or Serpin H1. Murine models are crucial to uncovering the common pathways in dominant and recessive osteogenesis imperfecta bone dysplasia. Clinical management of osteogenesis imperfecta is multidisciplinary, encompassing substantial progress in physical rehabilitation and surgical procedures, management of hearing, dental and pulmonary abnormalities, as well as drugs, such as bisphosphonates and recombinant human growth hormone. Novel treatments using cell therapy or new drug regimens hold promise for the future.

Friday, 4 November 2011

SBS: Ohio: Tiffani Calise denied new trial

Ed Meyer

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty has denied Tiffani Calise’s motion for a new trial in the 2010 baby-sitting death of a 23-month-old toddler.
When the case went to trial in June, four medical experts for the prosecution, led by Dr. R. Daryl Steiner, longtime director of the child abuse center at Akron Children’s Hospital, concluded that Aaliyah Ali suffered severe brain injuries from being violently shaken.
In a nine-page decision, McCarty concluded that the “forcefulness and consistency of the state’s medical testimony was sufficient to sustain a conviction in this case.”
She also noted that the jury weighed conflicting testimony by medical experts from both sides “and found the state’s experts credible.”
McCarty’s decision is not unexpected, because trial courts routinely reject such defense motions.
Calise, who turned 21 in June, said in her trial testimony, as well as in the 911 call she made the night of Aug. 9, 2010, that Aaliyah’s injuries occurred from a fall in her apartment bathtub.
She testified that the child fell and hit her head, just as Calise stepped away to grab a towel from a nearby linen closet.
After the June 15 verdicts were announced, McCarty imposed the mandatory sentence of life in prison without any chance of parole for 15 years.
Calise was sent to the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville on June 28, state prison records show.
She was convicted of murder, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering.
Child too old?
In Calise’s motion for a new trial, defense attorney Bill Whitaker claimed the state’s own evidence showed a 23-month-old’s body has developed to such an extent that a child of that age cannot be shaken and incur the severe brain injuries alleged by the state’s expert witnesses.
A chart of shaken-baby deaths by range of age in the publication,Pediatrics: The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics shows the vast majority of shaken-baby deaths are in the range of 1 to 6 months.
In the range of 18 to 24 months, the Journal did not cite a single case of shaken-baby syndrome, Whitaker said.
The chart was introduced at Calise’s trial during Whitaker’s cross-examination of Steiner.
“It’s a shame that the motion for a new trial was denied. Tiffani Calise did absolutely nothing to hurt this child,” Whitaker said Friday in response to the judge’s decision.
“The medical testimony was flawed. The pediatric journal study shows it’s virtually impossible to hurt a 2-year-old in that manner, and there was credible evidence the child was injured prior to coming into Tiffani’s care.”
Calise has a new appellate attorney, Donald Malarcik, who has filed a notice of appeal in Akron’s 9th District Court of Appeals.

SBS: Virginia: Kathleen Ganiere pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter

Va. Beach woman sentenced to 10 years for death of foster son
Credit: Va. Beach Police Dept.
Kathleen Ganiere
Posted on November 2, 2011 at 9:32 AM

Kathleen Ganiere pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the February 2010 death of nine-month-old Braxton M. Taylor.
Authorities said the little boy died from shaken baby syndrome.
Ganiere was originally charged with second-degree murder, child cruelty/neglect/abuse and child cruelty/neglect/abuse/reckless.

SBS: Texas: Jose Manuel Brito charged

EL PASO, Texas —
A 3-month-old baby taken to a local hospital with serious injuries prompts El Paso police to investigate its father. The child who was taken to University Medical Center by its father had several injuries to its head, which medical examiners determined were caused by shaken baby syndrome. They also found and nine broken ribs that were in the healing stage, police said.
Jose Manuel Brito, 27, the baby’s father, was arrested and charged on Oct. 19 with injury to a child.
According to police, Brito told investigators the baby had choked on milk and stopped breathing and said he had to perform CPR.
He remains jailed on a $100,000 bond.

SBS: Idaho: Teresa Oriana Martinez to be tried for AHT

  • RUPERT • A Rupert woman faces a December jury trial for alleged felony injury to a child related to the 2008 death of her infant girl.
    According to court records, 3-month-old Nivea Lopez died Dec. 19, 2008, after she was taken off life support at a Pocatello hospital. The final autopsy performed on the child revealed that she sustained abusive head injuries that included skull fractures, multiple rib fractures — some that had healed — and other injuries.
    The child’s death certificate notes her cause of death as “abusive head injury” and the manner of death as “homicide.”
    The child’s mother, 20-year-old Teresa Oriana Martinez, is scheduled to face a jury on the charge at 9 a.m. Dec. 13 in Minidoka County 5th District Court.
    The child’s father, Jaime Lopez, 25, has pleaded guilty to a felony injury to a child charge related to the infant’s death. According to a plea agreement, he will also plead guilty to a probation violation related to a rape conviction and testify truthfully in Martinez’s trial. He will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 28 in Minidoka County.
    Under the plea agreement, the state recommended that Lopez be sentenced to 3 1/2 to 10 years in prison.
    Minidoka County Prosecutor Lance Stevenson said Friday that the cases against Lopez and Martinez were originally investigated as first-degree murder.
    “Based on the evidence, the appropriate charge was felony injury to a child,” Stevenson said.
    Stevenson said both parents were in custody of the child when she was critically injured on Dec. 16, 2008, but the state does not have enough evidence to charge either with murder.
    “If we did, we would charge it,” Stevenson said.
    Court records show that an examination of the child’s eyes revealed damage indicative of shaken-baby syndrome. The Kempe Child Protection Team of Colorado said the child’s injuries were consistent with child abuse and indicated a pattern of multiple episodes of abuse.
    A Pocatello nurse who cared for the baby in the hospital told police that she overheard the parents discussing the need to keep their stories straight. A second nurse who was present when the baby was taken off life support said Martinez asked her how long it would take a shaken baby to die. The nurse described the conversation as “cold.”
    The maximum punishment for felony injury to a child is 10 years in state prison.

    Read more:

    SBS: Arizona: Casey Brandon Rose in court

    Posted: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
    Casey Brandon Rose, 30 of Scottsboro, will be in court Friday afternoon for a preliminary hearing regarding a felony domestic violence first degree charge.
    Rose, who has remained in the Jackson County Jail since Oct. 15 on a $100,000 bond, is accused of severely injuring his two-month-old son.
    Rose was charged after Scottsboro Police investigators received a call from Huntsville Hospital and DHR regarding the child's condition after he showed signs of injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
    Shaken baby syndrome is a type of inflicted traumatic brain injury that happens when a baby is violently shaken. Shaking makes a baby's fragile brain bounce back and forth inside the skull causing bruising, swelling and bleeding, which can lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death.
    District Judge Ralph Grider will preside over Rose's preliminary hearing Friday to determine if there is enough evidence or probable cause in the case to bind it over to a Grand Jury.
    District Attorney Charlie Rhodes said Wednesday a defendant has 30 days following a charge to file for a preliminary hearing or it's considered waived. In many cases, Rhodes said preliminary hearings are waived.

    SBS: California: Shirley Ree Smith

    By Warren RicheyStaff writer / October 31, 2011

    The US Supreme Court summarily reversed a federal appeals court on Monday in a ruling that will force a California grandmother back to prison for the alleged shaking death of her infant grandson.
    third time the justices have reversed a panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in the same case, Cavazos v. Smith (10-1115). The case involves the conviction of Shirley Ree Smith for allegedly shaking and killing 7-week-old Etzel. At her 1997 trial, jurors heard conflicting testimony about whether the infant died of shaken baby syndrome (SBS) or of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The jury decided that Ms. Smith had caused the death. She was subsequently sentenced to serve 15 years to life in prison.
    The verdict was upheld by the trial judge, a state appeals court, and a federal judge. But the Ninth Circuit panel disagreed with the jury’s interpretation of the evidence, and reversed the conviction.
    In vacating that opinion, the Supreme Court essentially scolded the Ninth Circuit for reaching a legal conclusion that was “plainly wrong,” and for substituting its view of the evidence in place of the jury’s conclusions.
    “It is the responsibility of the jury – not the court – to decide what conclusions should be drawn from evidence admitted at trial,” the court said in an unsigned opinion. The justices said a reviewing court may set aside a jury’s verdict for insufficient evidence only when “no rational trier of fact could have agreed with the jury.”
    “Because rational people can sometimes disagree, the inevitable consequence of this settled law is that judges will sometimes encounter convictions that they believe to be mistaken, but that they must nonetheless uphold,” the court said.
    “The court of appeals in this case substituted its own judgment for that of a California jury on the question of whether the prosecution’s or the defense’s expert witnesses more persuasively explained the cause of a death.”
    In a dissent, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer said justice is not served by the high court’s reversal. They said they would allow the Ninth Circuit panel’s decision to stand.
    “What does this court achieve other than to prolong Smith’s suffering and her separation from her family,” Justice Ginsburg wrote in dissent. “Is this court’s intervention really necessary?”
    Ginsburg said new information (obtained since Smith’s trial) about shaken baby syndrome “casts grave doubt” on the charges against Smith. She added that uncontraverted evidence shows that Smith poses no threat to her family or others.
    The unsigned majority decision counters this point, saying that considerations of whether Smith has been punished enough and poses no danger to society would perhaps be grounds for executive clemency.
    But the majority justices concluded: “The decision below cannot be allowed to stand.”
    The court noted: “In light of the evidence presented at trial, the Ninth Circuit plainly erred in concluding that the jury’s verdict was irrational, let alone that it was unreasonable for the California Court of Appeal to think otherwise.”
    “Doubts about whether Smith is in fact guilty are understandable. But it is not the job of this court, and was not that of the Ninth Circuit, to decide whether the state’s theory was correct,” the court said. “The jury decided that question, and its decision is supported by the record.”