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.

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