Cross-examination of Pediatrician in Shaken Death Syndrome Case

Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600By Justine Joya

On April 25, Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia did not fail to deliver an invigorating trial. On the stand for examination was the Stone family’s pediatrician who provided care to both twin babies. The defense repeatedly rocked the witness with loaded questions pertaining to her course of action for the victim’s health.

Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount’s cross-examination looked heavily into the victim’s state before and after the death and ultimately left off with the question of whether or not, in the pediatrician’s professional opinion, the cause of death pointed to Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Ms. Brushia brought to the court’s attention multiple email conversations exchanged with the baby’s doctor and Mr. Stone himself. Picking apart every email, the defense painted the doctor’s role in the case in a negative light.

Each email illustrated Mr. Stone’s concern for his baby’s health and carried a desperate cry for direction from the person with whom he trusted his baby’s life. According to her statement, the doctor refrained from conducting a CT Scan and MRI immediately following the baby’s alleged fall because there appeared to be no serious effects.

Rather, she told the parents to keep a look out for symptoms of “limp” periods and vomiting, which then could be signs of a more serious matter. Brushia then halted the court for a total of five minutes – the time of one of the victim’s limp episodes.

When the Stones contacted her again, explaining that the baby, who suffered the alleged fall, was experiencing difficulty tracking objects with his eyes in comparison to his twin, the doctor reacted with little concern and reassured the parents that a baby’s development differs from child to child and that the victim should not be compared to his twin brother.

The next time the Stones contacted her was to inform her that their son had been rushed to the emergency room; not too long after, the baby passed away. Ms. Brushia concluded her examination, exclaiming that the doctor did nothing to help the victim.

When Mr. Mount stepped up to question the witness, he asked her if she were at any point concerned about the “unwitnessed” fall that the baby experienced. When she responded “no,” he asked if she believed that she would have been concerned about an alleged fall if the Stones had not appeared to be a “good” family.

The witness then said “yes.” Mount went on to point out that the doctor from the UC Davis Medical Center, who last treated the victim, and the Bridging Evidence Assessment & Resources (BEAR) Center believed that the injuries the baby suffered were signs of abuse. Concluding his examination, he asked the pediatrician if in her professional opinion she believed that the victim suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome, and she replied “yes.”

Immediately, the Defense responded, and under Judge Richardson’s consent, had the witness’ last statement regarding baby’s death stricken from the record in light of the fact that the pediatrician was not an expert on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Before adjourning, Judge Richardson discussed matters of jury duty with two alternates. He allowed one alternate to be excused from continuing her jury duty, taking into consideration the emotional and physical toll it was exerting on her.

In response to another alternate who could no longer continue out his jury duty due to the shortened dismissal time provided by his work, Judge Richardson reminded him of his important role in this case and requested him to ask his supervisor to reconsider.

Court was adjourned on the early evening of April 25 and scheduled to resume Monday morning, April 28.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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  1. DavisBurns

    When my infant daughter lost consciousness for brief periods of time, a few seconds but long enough to fall over and look dead, you would not believe the reasons doctors came up with–holding her breath (she went white and fell over did not turn red and hold her breath) to ‘something like tennis elbow. What they did not do is believe the parents that the baby stopped breathing and that something was terribly wrong. ‘She looks healthy, gaining weight, has met developmental milestones …so I am not surprised this doctor failed to take the parents concerns seriously. As for the presumption of shaken baby syndrome, the first question I was asked was how do you discipline your daughter when she is misbehaves? I asked how a nine month old baby could misbehave? They assumed I had shaken her.

    This father took his child to experts because he was concerned and they failed to take his concerns seriously. That is all too common in my experience as is the urge to blame the parent.

  2. D.D.

    Years ago, my daughter slipped on a piece of playground equipment that she was climbing on. She smashed her head into something hard, I think it was metal. She then fell to the graound and was very briefly unconscious. The teacher (North Davis elementary or CDC. I can’t remember) called immediately & we took her into Kaiser. I’m not quite sure why an ambulance wasn’t called. I asked the Kaiser pediatricain to do a CT scan. He tried to dissuade me. I asked him point blank if he had kids? Yes. “If your own daughter had this head injury, would you give her a CT scan?” “No, I would not.”
    I still had them give her a CT scan. Thank God she was okay.

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