Friday, October 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Did shaking or a fall cause baby’s fatal injuries?

By
From page A1 | May 11, 2014 |

WOODLAND — Two brain-injury experts figuratively duked it out in a Yolo County courtroom last week, offering dueling theories as to what could have caused a 3-month-old boy’s fatal injuries in the autumn of 2012.
The prosecution’s expert, UC Davis Medical Center neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, said there’s no doubt in his mind that Samuel Stone died of a severe traumatic brain injury triggered by “adult-induced nonaccidental trauma” — formerly known in the medical field as shaken-baby syndrome.
“This is a child who has had more than one episode of traumatic brain injury,” said Omalu, who took the stand in Yolo Superior Court on Tuesday in the trial of Quentin Paul Stone, a 40-year-old Woodland resident accused of inflicting his infant son’s fatal wounds. Stone has denied the allegations.
But Dr. John Plunkett, a critic of the shaken-baby theory who testified several days later for the defense, said it’s just as possible that Samuel’s injuries stemmed from a fall from a 3-foot-high bed onto a hardwood floor, as described by the boy’s parents who said the tumble occurred in their home on Sept. 5, 2012.
“If you land on your head, even on a carpeted floor, the injury could be devastating,” Plunkett told the nine-man, three-woman jury on Friday. He went on to say that Samuel “had no evidence of shaking or impact (injuries),” either upon his admission to the hospital on Oct. 3, 2012, or when he died six days later.
Last week’s witness lineup in the Stone case has been referred to among court observers as a “battle of the experts,” whose conflicting testimony is expected to factor heavily into the jurors’ deliberations when they get the case later this week.
Under questioning last week by Supervising Deputy District Attorney Steve Mount, Omalu said he formulated his opinion as a result of examining baby Samuel’s brain, eyes, spinal cord and dura mater — the thick membrane that surrounds the brain — as well as reviewing medical and autopsy reports.
Among his findings: that Samuel’s brain was “markedly swollen,” with evidence of contusions and areas of bleeding both old and new — including bleeding between the brain’s two hemispheres indicative of a blood-vessel tear.
An examination of Samuel’s eyes “showed evidence of a constellation of findings that would be consistent with traumatic brain injury,” including hemmorhaging that extended from the optic nerves to the retinas, which were detached from the walls of the eyes, Omalu testified.
The UCD doctor also noted that the baby had sustained rib fractures near his spinal column which, given the young bones’ still-flexible nature, is “indicative a violent compressive injury of the child’s trunk.” The fractures were believed to be two to three weeks old, he said.
Omalu attributed the brain injuries to what he called “angular rotational acceleration-deceleration” — in other words, sudden movement of the head that causes the brain to hit the skull’s interior. He said he further ruled out that the injuries were caused by either oxygen or glucose deprivation.
Asked whether a 3-foot fall would be likely to cause the injuries Samuel suffered, Omalu answered no, citing the lack of a laceration, abrasion or any other external injury to the infant’s head. He also noted that such a fall would result in bleeding to just one area of the brain — such as the point of impact — and not the widespread hematoma shown in Samuel’s brain scans.
“It’s not medically feasible,” he said of the alleged fall, which defense lawyers contend caused Samuel’s fatal injuries that went unrecognized by family doctors during several follow-up examinations.
Plunkett, the defense witness, largely contradicted Omalu’s testimony when he took the stand several days later, saying not only could Samuel’s injuries have been caused by a short-distance fall, but may even have been set in motion during his birth.
Testifying as an expert in biomechanics as well as forensic pathology, Plunkett said studies have shown that the force generated by even the most violent shaking movement is far below the threshold required to cause significant brain injuries.
“It is extremely unlikely to be able to cause brain damage in an infant by shaking it,” Plunkett told Supervising Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia. Instead, “I would expect to see major structural neck damage — a broken neck,” which was not among Samuel’s injuries.
In the case of a fall, however, the body sustains what Plunkett referred to as “impact loading” — the collision of two solid objects — and “you will see the head rotate as a result of the impact,” he said. That impact, he added, “is going to be a minimum of 10 times the force of a shake.”
As for the infant’s detached retinas, Plunkett said the condition frequently occurs post-mortem, noting that a forensic ophthalmologist’s report about the case made no mention of retinal detachment in baby Samuel. An insufficient amount of vitamin D in the boy’s bloodstream, as detected in hospital lab tests, may have accounted for the rib fractures, he added.
Plunkett, who reviewed reports, autopsy photographs and microscope slides of tissue samples in the case, said he concluded that Samuel died of an expanding chronic subdural hematoma — a large area of bleeding to his brain that in turn caused increased intracranial pressure and triggered the seizures that ultimately landed the baby in the hospital.
Accompanying symptoms, Plunkett said, can include vomiting and irritability, both of which were reported to the Stones’ family doctors following the alleged fall but were attributed to acid reflux.
“This may have ultimately been due to natural causes” if the bleeding was present at birth, Plunkett said. If caused by a fall, “then I would call it an accident. But I have no evidence that he had a nonaccidental injury caused by anyone.”
Testimony in the case resumes Monday in Judge Paul Richardson’s courtroom.
— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    State superintendent makes campaign stop in Davis

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Indians celebrate Diwali with gala on Sunday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Rairdan dinged for late report

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

     
    Veterans will tailgate at ‘Salute to Heroes’ game

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Wolk hailed for environmental votes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Yamada honored for leadership on aging issues

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Embroidery group meets at mall

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Bet Haverim will hear Israel update

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Local artisans featured at holiday craft fair

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Kids walk for friends at Birch Lane

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Explorit: Creep out with some spooky science

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

    Shambhala offers Tai Chi class

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Bones for Life classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Enjoy wine, music and art at Sunday fundraiser for DHS choir

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Forum

     
    Garamendi, Dodd get my votes

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    High hopes for Sunder

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Public service is in her heart

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    A calm, thoughtful voice

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Sunder is a perfect fit

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Best predictor is past behavior

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Vote for students, with Tuck

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    My choices on Tuesday

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    DHS plays undefeated Pacers Friday night

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Blue Devil girls net an easy win at Grant

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Aggie offense A-OK; now what about defense?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    In Davis, rugby is as American as apple pie

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
     
    Niemi’s 43 saves aren’t enough in loss to Wild

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Calling all artists for upcoming show

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘Birdman': A dark comedy that soars

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11

     
    DHS Madrigals host singing workshop

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12

     
    Marcia Ball to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Big, capable luxury defines Yukon

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Joseph Francis Gray

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, October 31, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER2

    Lyon Real Estate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER3

    RE/Max Gold

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER4

    Kim Eichorn

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER5

    Yolo FCU

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Juan Ramirez

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Susan von Geldern

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Team Traverso

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER6

    Tracy Harris

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

    Susan von Geldern

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER7

    Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

    Julie Leonard

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER8

    Joe Kaplan

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

    Melrina A Maggiora

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER9

    Coldwell Banker

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER10

    Leslie Blevins

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

    Julie Partain

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER12

    Robin Garland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Jamie Madison

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Diane Lardelli

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER13

    Karen Waggoner

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

    Jamie Madison & Associates

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

    Lisa Haass

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER14

    Ciana Wallace

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER15

    Travis Credit Union

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER16

    Malek Baroody

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER17

    Marcelo Campos

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER18

    F1rst Street Real Estate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: RER20