Rubin and Sheffield get murder charges dismissed in Shaken Baby case

In the “Shaken Baby Syndrome” trial of State of Georgia v. Jamal Rashaad Thomas, the state dismissed all murder charges before the jury could decide the case.  Defense counsel for Mr. Thomas, Robert G. Rubin and Jason B. Sheffield, had just put up their first expert, a pediatric neuropathologist from Oxford, England who specialized in the particular area of the brain affected by bleeding.  It was her opinion, after studying thousands of pages of medical records about Mr. Thomas’s baby and reviewing the autopsy and tissue slides, that the bleeding in the baby’s head were not the result of a traumatic and violent shaking, as the state alleged in their indictment, but the result of a venous thrombosis or clot. The signs of venous thrombosis were there prior to the day of Mr. Thomas’s baby’s collapse.  In addition to the clot, the baby showed signs of prior bleeding in another area of the brain, which most likely arose at birth and never resolved. 

More experts for the defense were expected to testify.  They included a pediatric neuroradiologist who would have testified that the doctors at the hospital missed a bleed on the child’s first CT – a bleed that supported the child having had a growing clot.  Other experts included a biomedical engineer who was slated to educate the jury that she would expect to see severe neck injuries to the cervical spine, muscles, tissues, and spinal cord had Mr. Thomas shaken his child as alleged.  There were no injuries to the child’s neck.  A former medical examiner for the county would had testified that in his opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the child lacked the “triad” of injuries that traditionally go along with the “Shaken Baby” hypothesis in that the child did not have retinal hemorrhages.  The remaining brain injuries, in his opinion, were consistent with venous thrombosis.

The state concluded that they could not convince a jury of 12 that Mr. Thomas was guilty of murder charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Thomas walked out of the courthouse a free man, after entering a plea to the reduced charge of Cruelty to Children in the 2nd degree (Negligence), a plea wherein he did not admit any liability.  The Judge gave him four years of probation under Georgia’s First Offender statute, which means that Mr. Thomas will not have any record of a conviction after he successfully completes his probation. Mr. Thomas and his family felt the plea offer by the state was a way to limit his exposure to a potential life sentence in prison, should the jury believe the state’s theory of the case, despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence.

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