Defense’s Final Two Witnesses Testify in Dorsey Trial


YoloCourt-12By Samantha Brill

On October 27, 2016, Judge Paul Richardson presided over the resumption of the trial of the People v. Darnell Dorsey. Mr. Dorsey has been charged with assaulting and causing fatal injury to his girlfriend’s 20-month-old son, Cameron Morrison, in January of 2014. Deputy Public Defenders Martha Sequeira and Joseph Gocke represent Darnell Dorsey, and Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin represents the People.

After the lunch break, Mr. Gocke continued questioning the defense’s witness, Dr. Steven Gabaeff of Jackson, CA, with over 30 years’ experience and licensed to practice emergency room medicine. Mr. Gocke presented Defense Exhibit 620, a picture of a CT scan of Cameron’s brain taken at Sutter Davis. The witness then explained to the court what he observed when looking at this scan. He stated that there were one or two millimeters of swelling shown along with a white line down the middle of the brain that was an indication of an early sign of low oxygen damage.

The witness also noted that the brain was so swollen that the usual free space that is left between the brain and the skull in a healthy brain was missing, meaning that Cameron’s vomiting was a symptom of this. He also mentioned that, since there was no scalp swelling present, he was able to rule out impact trauma.

Mr. Gocke then questioned the witness about the research that Dr. Gabaeff has done and asked him to elaborate on such studies. Dr. Gabaeff explained that one of the main studies was by the National Highway Traffic Administration, where they noted the threshold for brain damage by impact (tested by car) is ten times the force of gravity. This study also concluded after tests that a human can only create about five times the force of gravity by shaking a child, rendering it close to impossible for an adult to inflict such trauma on a child by shaking.

The witness then moved on to explain that, after looking at Cameron’s scans, the child appeared to have no damage to his abdominal wall. This indicated that there was no physical evidence of Cameron being squeezed or punched. The doctor noted that Cameron’s internal injuries were most likely caused by the CPR his mother attempted to give him, however, the broken ribs were not likely to cause death.

Mr. Gocke entered his last line of questioning by asking about the condition of Cameron’s neck on the scans. The witness explained to the court that, to be consistent with shaken baby syndrome, Cameron’s neck would have had to be compromised. However, in scans it showed no injuries.

Ms. Serafin then conducted cross-examination for the People. She went over the doctor’s experience as a private contractor to many other hospitals, primarily in emergency rooms, for 38 years where he encountered many different cases.

Ms. Serafin asked the witness questions about his opinions and diagnosis of Cameron. The witness explained that any person can get broken ribs due to CPR. However, when CPR is done in the ER, the breaking of ribs during the act usually won’t happen.

Dr. Gabaeff also explained to the court that posterior rib fractures are almost never caused by child abuse, and those who say they are would be wrong. Children usually get these kinds of fractures by falling backwards, or are born with them during birth complications that caused these ribs to develop in a deformed way – that would exhibit sub-acute fractures later in their bone development.

The witness stated that he had worked on 4,000 child abuse cases. Many were due to children becoming hurt as a result of being deficient in vitamin D, which also indicates that the child has rickets. He went on to explain that about 80 percent of children in the United States have rickets from a vitamin D deficiency.

His medical opinion was that Cameron had rickets because his vitamin D levels were at 14 nanomoles per liter (where a healthy level would be around 50 nmol/L), and he discounts other medical opinions that are contrary to his, which included the other doctors who worked on Cameron’s case.

Going on to explain his medical history, the witness stated that he would rule out child abuse if the child stated that he was okay.

Involving Cameron’s case, the witness reviewed all of the radiologist reports and he said all are wrong. However, he did not review all the reports but went through enough to get a good understanding of Cameron’s medical history and injuries, while being payed $300 an hour by the defense.

The prosecution also confirmed with the witness that he has also written his own literature on shaken baby syndrome, which has been greatly criticized. But according to Doctor Gabaeff, those who disagree with his opinions are wrong.

The People rested and the witness was excused.

The defense then called Janet Chaney to the stand. She explained that she works for the Davis Police Department as a civilian policy service specialist. She also confirmed that she helped collect evidence regarding Cameron’s case.

The witness explained that she was asked by an officer to go to the Chevron station at Olive Drive in Davis to collect video surveillance from 11:45pm January 22 to 12:30am January 23, 2014. She was unable to do so, as the surveillance equipment at the Chevron was out of service.

However, she was able to collect a gas receipt, which she then booked into evidence.

The defense and the People rested and the witness was excused.

This brought to conclusion the introduction of evidence from both the prosecution and the defense. The court will hear closing arguments and give out jury instructions on Monday at 8:30am.


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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