Pediatric Neurosurgery

Case Study

Our client was charged with murder.  She was a nanny and the child she was watching died from brain damage about an hour into the nanny caring for the child. She was accused of Shaken Baby Syndrome.  The nanny told the police that she witnesses symptoms consistent with seizure about an hour after the took custody of the child.  The prosecution’s expert from Children’s Hospital, Oakland testified at the preliminary hearing that the onset of symptoms of seizure would be immediate after the shaking.  The only person with the child was during that time was the nanny.  Under cross examination the prosecutions expert could not recall the name of the research study that she had read that lead her to her conclusion of immediate onset of symptoms but finally remembered the author. 

Our Science advisor researched all articles written on the subject and found one referencing authority supporting immediate onset of symptoms after a baby was shaken violent.  However, a footnote clarified that, with children under two years of age, the brain had not grown to fill the skull and in such  casestake time for the brain to swell and fill the skull cavity. Only thereafter, when there would be no room to expandwould the pressure of the swelling of the brain inside the skull cause brain damage.  The child that died was well under two years of age.  The prosecution’s expert was wrong on the science. 

Our Science advisor also located the Head of Cedar Sinai Los Angeles Pediatric Neuro-Surgery who agreed to testify that, in fact, it could take several hours from the time of the shaking to the onset of symptoms. 

The prosecution had relied on a highly qualified pathologist for decades, but he had recently retired.  Patrick Clancy contacted this pathologist and showed him the chart.  The pathologist agreed that the cause of the injuries predated the time that the nanny had the child. 

Interestingly, the father of the child was with the child that morning and had failed a police polygraph.  The nanny had passed a polygraph.  Case dismissed.  SCIENCE SET HER FREE.