With still weeks of testimony to go, the jury in Department One has seen its fair share of medical testimony, which seems to be dragging them in circles.
Quentin Stone is the father accused of “shaking” his two-month-old baby, which potentially may have caused the baby’s death. The trial, which started last week, involves the contention that three-month-old Samuel Stone died from injuries that included bleeding in his brain, retinal hemorrhages and fractured ribs, and has left many questioning the charges at hand.
Today the trial continued, with the return of Doctor Coulter, the chief of pediatrics at UC Davis Medical Center. Coulter, who has examined more the 1,000 child abuse cases and has testified in over 200 cases as an expert in child abuse, felt that two-month-old infant Samuel’s death was not an accident.
When baby Samuel arrived at the ER at UC Davis Medical Center, a specialist in optometry examined the infant’s eyes. The eyes, Coulter stated, are examined to rule out any retinal hemorrhages that are commonly found with head injuries. When the retinas of the infants were examined, multiple hemorrhages were located on multiple layers of the retina.
When asked by Deputy D.A. Robin Johnson about how retinal hemorrhages occur, he stated that “retinal hemorrhaging can occur when there is increased pressure in the brain which pushes on the head of the optic nerve.” Johnson, who seemed to quickly brush Coulter’s response aside, began questioning Coulter with an emphasis on the idea of “shaking baby syndrome.”
Shaking baby syndrome, according to the chief of pediatrics, is associated with retinal hemorrhaging. When a person is being shaken, the gel in their eyes also will be moving. With the repetitive movement of the gel, swelling of the optic nerve can occur, and can ultimately lead to retinal hemorrhaging. Oddly, later on in the testimony Coulter seemed to contradict himself by stating “I do not feel retinal hemorrhaging is associated with abuse.” Many of the jurors’ faces were left puzzled as the testimony continued.
It is interesting to note that Coulter’s first response to the reasoning behind retinal hemorrhaging was that it could be associated with increased pressure in the head. A CT scan done at the ER at UCD Medical Center showed that the two-month old infant did have a tremendous amount of fluid causing pressure in his head. When asked later in the testimony what doctors would do to relieve the pressure associated with fluid in the head, Coulter responded with the first thing doctors would do would be to drain the fluid by inserting a needle into the head, which could ultimately lead to saving the person’s life. When asked if draining of the fluid in the infant’s head was something doctors were considering the day before, Coulter responded, in a questioning tone, that “Neuro felt it was unnecessary?”
After what seemed like a never-ending cycle of questions, the jury was released for a recess to take a break from the mind-boggling testimony.
Coulter’s testimony continued after the break, with cross-examination done by Deputy Defense Attorney Martha Sequeira.
Sequeira, who seemed intrigued by the fact that Dr. Coulter has testified as an “expert” in assessing child abuse, questioned Coulter about his certification. In recent years, the Medical Board has certified specialists to assess child abuse cases by taking an exam. Coulter, who emphasized that he has the qualifications of being a child abuse consultant, stated that he has not taken the exam and was instead “grandfathered” into the position, due to his years of dealing with abuse cases.
When questioned by Sequeira of how validation of child abuse is given, a hesitant Coulter responded by saying “literature and speaking to others in the field.” Sequeira fired back, “So there is no way of validating?” Coulter responded with a reassurance to Sequiera’s question, that there is no way to truly validate that child abuse has taken place.
Defense then presumed to question Coulter with many different scenarios and hypotheticals, which led Judge Richardson to ask the defense to narrow down to the subject matter. Sequeira, clearly upset, responded to Judge Richardson’s request by stressing that she has the right to cross-examine and that she feels that her client’s rights were being violated.
Sequeira then cut to the chase by asking Coulter if it was possible that someone else could have inflicted these injuries on the two-month-old infant. An agitated Coulter responded by saying, “I never said it was the defendant that shook the child, but somebody did!”
The jury has now had multiple ideas thrown at them for possible causes of the baby’s death, and will continue hearing several “expert” medical testimonies as the trial continues. Cross-examination of Coulter will continue by the defense in the morning.