Aisling Brady McCarthy is accused of shaking an infant to death.  However, prosecutors had to withdraw charges against Geoffrey Wilson in a separate shaken baby syndrome case because of questions surrounding Dr. Alice Newton, also the expert for the prosecution in McCarthy’s case.  Wilson was accused of shaking to death 6-month-old Nathan in 2010, but his defense attorneys said the young boy had a congenital condition which caused his death.  Elaine Whitfield Sharpe, who does not represent McCarthy, but did represent English nanny Louise Woodward in her case, said  of the ruling, “It shows that this doctor misdiagnosed a condition in one instance, and that has some relevance when defense attorneys cross-examine her.  You can’t bring up the finding in the case, but you can ask her about it. You could ask, ‘Is it true, Dr. Newton, that you diagnosed the baby in the case of Nathan Wilson?’ If she responds, you can ask whether she heard about the outcome.”

Woodward, a Briton, was convicted of second-degree murder in Massachusetts in 1997 in the death of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen.  However, her conviction was soon reduced to involuntary manslaughter.  A prosecution appeal against the reduction failed in a split decision.  She was deported to the U.K. a year after her conviction.  Woodward was accused of shaking the infant to death, but she maintains her innocence.

McCarthy’s lawyers have already contacted Wilson’s lawyer J.W. Carney Jr. who allowed them to look over some of Wilson’s cases because “[they were] very sympathetic when there’s a situation where someone has been wrongfully charged with murder.”

The Boston Herald speculated the latest decision to drop the Wilson case shows that Massachusetts prosecutors are not confident in Newton’s expertise anymore.  In addition, the development is another blow to the now-controversial, but once accepted shaken baby syndrome diagnosis.  Doctors who criticize the diagnosis include the research pioneer, Dr. Norman Guthkelch.  Dr. Guthkelch coined the term SBS in 1971.  However, he told the Medill Justice Center recently that he regrets even writing his research paper “because people are in jail on the basis of what they claim is my paper, when in fact it is nothing like it.”

Dr. Robert Rothfeder, a physician and attorney, who has spoken out against shaken-baby syndrome as an expert witness, said: “[The Wilson] case is typical of what’s going on around the country right now.  In the minds of some, [the finding of SBS is] tantamount to DNA evidence, but that’s certainly not the case.”

McCarthy’s lawyers maintain that the child suffered injuries weeks before her death when she was not under McCarthy’s care.

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