Attorneys Clash in Closing Arguments in Stone Trial
by Antoinnette Borbon
The prosecution in the case against Quentin Stone began this Thursday with the rebuttal witness testimony of Dr. Omalu. Quentin Stone is accused of shaking his three-month-old baby, ultimately causing his death.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount brought Dr. Omalu back to the stand to clarify the difference between a brain that had suffered from hypoxic ischemic injury vs. axonal injury. Dr. Omalu showed several pictures to the jury.
He had pictures from a brain that had suffered the ischemic injury and one that had suffered the axonal. He then briefly explained again what happens to the brain when it suffers a severe trauma, as in the case of baby Samuel Stone.
Restating, the brain tissue showed old bleeding and new bleeding in the autopsy. He stated, “In the case of Samuel Stone, we see as the pressure and blood increases, a stasis of blood is found in the structure, as in the water not flowing, like dirty water, proteins will stop flowing.” He asserts this finding is only caused by a severe trauma.
Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira asked Dr. Omalu if he had heard of Dr. Squire who had put out an article in 2011 indicating that you could not distinguish hypoxic ischemic injury from axonal. He told defense he disagreed with that research, referring back to the textbook he has used for years and his own experience of doing over 20,000 autopsies in both adults and children.
It was now time for the prosecution to begin their closing arguments. The courtroom filled with family and friends anxiously awaiting.
Mr. Mount began with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you for your patience. In this case, the people have the burden of proving two things, the first is the medical evidence, the second is the social burden. Mr. Stone is a nice man, just look in the courtroom. But you will have to believe what the doctors are telling you, or what they (friends, family) are telling you about how they feel about Stone and say, how could he do this? What I say is not evidence, what I say is just to help you examine it and decide on what is true. So I want you to look at the story, none of what Dr. O’Donohue says is evidence. None of what character witnesses say is evidence, it is what they feel, and they were not there.”
Mount continued with, “First, you must believe the story of how Sam got from the middle of that bed to the floor but let’s take a look at what we are here for and not here for. Mr. Stone is not charged with murder, the Grand Jury is the one who charges and they are not saying that he did this out of anger, intent or even that he struck him, wanting to hurt him. What the evidence shows is that something happened on October 3, within minutes, causing great bodily injury and death.”
The DDA stated, “This was not an accident, and it leaves you with medical evidence that tells you something happened. No one was home with Stone when this happened to the baby. There is no evidence of it being Sara, because Dr. Omalu showed you that stuff leaks out, is presented immediately upon injury. She had been gone for 2 hours. Stone said he gave Samuel a bottle but there was no sign of vomiting, no one else but Stone could be responsible, no babysitter, no one, it happened within minutes before he was taken to the hospital on October 3.”
Mount stated, “It was two or three incidents that happened but what happened on October 3 is what killed him!” He said medically and socially proving a case may be difficult, but legally “we know he inflicted pain, obviously Sam had to suffer something so drastic and from the evidence of severe brain injury, you will not have to struggle with that one.”
Mount, fighting back emotion, said, “But if you believe he did put him on the bed, then you ACQUIT HIM!” then broke down into tears.
Trying to compose himself, Mount stated, “Trauma that killed him was on October 3, but lets go back to the fall. Dr. Plunkett said he could have gotten those injuries from a fall but, in his own studies, the children died within a 24-hour period after a fall, and Sam had no visible signs on September 5 of a fall, so how did he get those injuries? No signs, yet the inside of his brain is messed up.”
As for the testimony of Dr. Gabaeff, “So shoddy, never even looked at the autopsy? Worthless, he’s a hack…..even Stone told that the baby had pressure on the brain, Dr. Gabaeff said, there wasn’t enough to remove? The brain stem was all swooshed down from all that pressure!”
Deputy DA Mount then turned to the testimony of Dr. O’Donohue, the psychologist who interviewed Jack and the Stone family. He said that the doctor never saw the fall, and it is garbage to say that Jack exhibited behavior of “shame-guilt.” He said the ultimate issue is the story of what happened on October 3, but let’s look at the fall. Assuming Sam fell off the bed, how did he get to the floor? He stated, “Three possibilities, 1. Jack, 2. The dog, 3. He rolled off having a seizure.”
Deputy DA Mount stated, “No evidence of the dog dragging him off the bed, so this leaves you with Jack. Stone said he did not know what room Jack was in. Why would Jack go looking for Sam, when Hank was much more accessible? Remember, he was in the swing. Are we to assume that Jack pushed him off the bed and then decided not to play with him? That story of Jack got pretty hard to believe as reasonable. But if you believe that, you would believe one-sided bleeding, not bi-lateral and you would have to say that Dr. Organo, Dr. Omalu were incorrect, you would have to believe they are all incorrect.”
He says, “Rickets, tested by Dr. Coulter and ruled out and I submit to you, they have a laundry list of improbability and you would have to say all doctors were wrong.”
Mount stated even the rib fractures were agreed on by the doctors as being compression fractures, with the exception of Dr. Gabaeff, who tried to say they were over-interpreted. He said he agreed with Dr. Barnes that you have to look at everything, “we did, this is why Dr. Organo sent a request to Dr. Omalu, a neuropathologist, expert.”
The Deputy DA then shifted to the vomiting. He said it got better, not worse and there was evidence of that in the notes. He said, “Dr. Gabaeff was just guessing towards the end of testimony, he never even looked at the autopsy. But Dr. Omalu looked at the brain, sliced it, tested it and it showed trauma. He says, what he saw happens in minutes.” Mount stated, “If it wasn’t for Dr. Omalu, we wouldn’t be here, and what gets us here are those injuries.” He stated, “The fall does not match the injuries.”
Mount asserted, “Dr. Barnes did not read all the medical reports and talked about using bio-mechanical dummies for his studies and stated that radiology cannot tell you all you need to know, you have to check everything, I submit to you, we did all of these things.”
He said with Shaken Baby Syndrome, sometimes children present with no injury, no signs, no abrasions, no external trauma but if a child fell there would be evidence of an epidural bleed and with those falls, it would be death. He admitted, “Study of SBS needs more research on both sides.”
He ended with, “I gave him the opportunity to tell me what could have happened, but he didn’t … You have to believe in the reasonable possibilities. I believe they began on September 5.”
He said it was Stone who sent the emails to the baby’s pediatrician because he is the one who knew what happened.
Deputy DA Mount ended his first closing with, “Medical evidence just does not match up.”
Deputy Public Defender Martha Sequeira began with, “Good morning, it’s been a long 4 weeks. This case is about the 93 days they had the pleasure of knowing Sam, the privilege of having him. What happened, that man (she points to Stone) did nothing but protect and love his child. As we sit here today, that man is innocent. “
She stated Sam’s injuries were a result of a cascade of events that led him to a “crash.” Sequeira said, “And I would like to attempt to give you the rules of the law that will get you to that conclusion. You will get a copy of the instructions and you will have to read them but at the end of the day, you are the trier of facts. You have to follow the law, even if you disagree.”
Ms. Sequeira said, “In 12 years, I have believed in the system but in the last four weeks, I feel the system has failed. But not I, not Brushia, not Stone has the burden of proving to you it was an accident. The government has that burden, that means they have to prove every single thing beyond a reasonable doubt. An abiding conviction is something you cannot change what you feel today. I submit to you, they haven’t even moved the threshold. First, why would Stone seek treatment if he caused the injuries? When he was the one who caused them? On September 5, Stone was home with the children. He goes out to close the door because his wife asked him to. He goes out for 2 minutes and comes back to find Sam on the floor. He picks him up and what does he do? He massages him, he is an extraordinary person.”
Sequeira, taking the jurors down the road of Quentin’s story, stated, “He texts his wife and then takes Sam to the ER where Kaiser doctors tell Stone the baby is fine. Kaiser never gave him any instructions when he left.”
She said it was the next day or so that the baby began vomiting. Stone emailed the baby’s doctor and took him back in to Kaiser. It was then that Dr. Villalobos told them after only checking the baby out for twenty minutes, he would be fine. But the doctor did say that she consulted with a neurologist about the limp episodes Stone told her Sam was having.” The defense stated, “She didn’t even do what the doctor asked her to do, she was supposed to watch Stone feed the baby to make sure he did not have a viral infection and did not throw up and she left the room, came back after twenty minutes and told Stone the baby was fine, so they left.”
She stated that Dr. Nelson said if he had known about the limp episodes, he would have ordered the CT scan, but Dr. Villalobos never told him. In fact, Sequiera stated, the baby was taken to his well-baby checkup and told everything was fine even after Sara’s concern over the limp episodes, the vomiting and the tracking issues. She said they once again sent them home saying, “Everything is fine, don’t compare the two.”
The defense said, “I know there is a lot of controversy on both sides but the government has to, at the end of the day, has to prove non-accidental vs. accidental.”
In fact, she stated, in their own words, their experts impeach each other. Coulter says shaking alone, and Omalu says shaking plus impact.
She went into Dr. O’Donohue’s testimony. She said, “The risk factors for abuse were not met but I have to tell you, I think that it is unfair to say you have to be poor or uneducated, on drugs, to be more likely to hurt your kids…but I won’t go there … and you don’t call 911 to get help if you abused your child, you hide it.” Dr. O’Donohue talked about the guilt and shame Jack felt and how Stone said that he saw him in his room, staring at the wall in the corner.
Sequeira stated, “Seizures precipitate collapse on October 3, and you heard that at UCD, he had over a hundred seizures, some in front of the family, even nurses who could not identify them as seizures.”
Insisting on the testimony of Dr. Plunkett, she said that a subdural hematoma can be caused from natural diseases. She stated, “The seizures can cause hypoxic ischemia and Dr. Omalu told you he did not have that in autopsy findings.”
She said the family asked doctors at UCD for a second opinion and was told it would only prolong the suffering of baby Samuel.
The defense turned its attention to the testimony of Dr. Barnes. “He testifies in these cases because he is one who used to get convictions for testifying for the prosecution on child abuse cases. He wants to make right his wrongs. He testified there was no abusive head trauma.”
Sequeira then talked about the story being reasonable and it was prosecution that was not reasonable. She said, “Dr. Gabaeff is not a hack, and agrees with Dr. Plunkett on findings. The reality is on September 11, he had another episode of limp/seizures and Sam’s vomiting did not get better.”
Turning her attention to the people in the courtroom there to support Stone, once again she stated, “Why would the people in this room be here if they did not believe without reasonable doubt, that Stone was telling the truth? Why would they get on the stand and lie, why would his wife be here?”
Finally, closing with, “Don’t believe them, believe the character of Mr. Stone. Why would he make up the story? In fact, my client gets angry at me……(laughing) ah…I meant, he tells me not to get angry but that is who I am, that is my personality. I was ready to crawl out of my chair!”
She told the jurors to look at [jury instructions CALCRIM No.] 350, 351 instructions about the character of Mr. Stone. She says he was said to be calm, gentle, peaceful, empathetic and a natural parent. “I went crazy during this trial and I’m not accused of killing my child.”
She points out that in the instructions of 351, it says a character’s opinion can be a part of reasonable doubt. “Do you think these people come in here, listen and just bury their heads in the sand?”
The government wants you to believe something else…..Sequeira began to cry…..I don’t understand why someone is here because he is telling the truth…..this man sitting right here is innocent, he loved him and did not kill his son, no matter what Deputy DA tells you in rebuttal, you have the chance, use the law, let this man move on, find him not guilty!” she sobbed.
In Deputy DA Steve Mount’s final closing, he too, would find himself overcome with emotion, having to pause in between words.
“I want to start with what Martha said about what I believe, but I said what I believe is up to each and every one of you, it is your decision…my belief is irrelevant. What I think, what I feel, what I believe does not count. I don’t know Stone. He has always been nice, courteous, kind and these people say the same thing. But no matter what you say, these people are biased. But your job is to look carefully at the evidence and come up collectively with a verdict. That is your job, that is the way our government works, our system works. You have to come to your verdict with an abiding conviction, you have to be able to say, I looked back on that trial and I still believe my decision was correct.
“Why would he seek care – he had to seek care. When you get to October third, he couldn’t make up another accident – you can look to see if any instructions were given to him by Kaiser. Dr. Otani said he was fine, he told her it was an unwitnessed fall, that is a red flag. He was two months old, he couldn’t move off that bed. The kids who show more external injuries are older, they can tell someone where a bruise comes from, Sam was a baby, he couldn’t. What killed Sam happened in minutes, we couldn’t make those facts up. And again, what I say does not count.
“There are a lot of discrepancies from doctors but that is why we have an autopsy, that is why we take the other step with Dr. Omalu. When defense compares Omalu to Gabaeff, she says it is apples to apples…but it is not, it is apples to bananas. I will say it again, Dr. Gabaeff is a hack.”
He stated, “No doctor can open up a brain and be wrong, no doctor can open up ribs and not see fractures.”
“Dr. Omalu doesn’t care what side he comes from, he looked at all the x-rays, the brain and that is what he saw!” Mount stated the hemotomas by defense’s experts are glossed over. He said if the pressure had kept going as defense’s doctors said it did from the first incident…it would have grown bigger each day and the vomiting would have increased. Again, they talk about what things could happen and not about what the evidence showed did happen!”
He closed by telling the jurors that it was hearsay that Coroner LaBrash told the family they could not have a second opinion on autopsy.
He said the seizures did not cause the bleeding, but the trauma caused the bleeding. Dr. Plunkett could not provide one single person who had fallen and sustained the injuries Sam had with only a three-feet fall.
Dr. Squire did not testify and what he said in disagreement with Dr. Omalu is to attack his opinion.
He said that they, the defense, say they are here to tell Sam’s story, but they are here to tell Quentin Stone’s story.
“You owe it to Jack and Sam. Jack is going to grow up with that story…” Mount broke down.
There was a pause…..”We wouldn’t be here if not for Omalu, the defense is right…and we all think Stone is a nice guy…he shouldn’t be here… look at the physical evidence.”
“You have to search your heart, soul and mind and look carefully at all the evidence,” he sobbed.
“Good luck to you all.”
As the jurors filed out of the courtroom one by one, a few were in tears. The jurors have now been sent to deliberate.
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