Child Physical Abuse / Shaken Baby Syndrome / Abusive Head Trauma

Summaries of charges, defenses, and outcomes for clients prosecuted in counties throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

Cases of this practice area

State v. Jane Doe (2018)

Charges: Cruelty to Children

States case:

Defendant and her fiancé were arrested for spanking and causing injury to Defendant’s 8-year-old son. Photographs showed extensive “bruising” on the child’s buttocks. A medical examination concluded the bruising was consistent with a vicious beating. Defendant and her fiancé gave statements to the GBI, and each admitted to spanking the child. In addition to the State’s criminal prosecution, Defendant’s ex-husband filed a TPO against Defendant’s fiancé, and a Petition for Change of Custody against Defendant; and Defendant was ordered to have no contact with her son at all.

Judgement:

Prior to receiving discovery, Defense Counsel gathered everything possible to understand the case: Defendant’s narrative about what happened the night of the spanking; all the history between Defendant and her ex-husband; photographs she had of her son’s injuries; records of all the phone calls and text messages between Defendant, her ex-husband, and her fiancé about the incident; all of her son’s medical records, counseling records, and school records; and all of the documents filed in the TPO and Custody cases. Defense Counsel visited Defendant’s home, examining and photographing where the alleged incident occurred.

To show that Defendant was a good parent, Defense Counsel had Defendant take a Parental Fitness Evaluation (PFE) with a Licensed Psychologist, who concluded that Defendant was a perfectly fit parent and low risk for family violence. Defense Counsel also had Defendant complete parenting classes to show she was eager to learn new skills and improve.

When Defense Counsel finally obtained and studied the State’s discovery, they learned that everything in the case indicated that Defendant did spank her son, but that even her son claimed the spanking was “not that hard” and “did not hurt.”

Defense Counsel shared all the case materials with a forensic pathologist who concluded that the child’s injuries were not consistent with excessive force.

After more than a year, Defense Counsel presented its case to the prosecutor, who subsequently dropped the felony charge and allowed Defendant to plead to misdemeanor Simple Battery under the First Offender Act. After 12 months of probation, Defendant will receive a full exoneration, her plea will be discharged, there will be no conviction on her record, and the record of her arrest will be restricted.

State v. John Doe (2016)

Charges: Murder, 3 counts of Felony Murder, and one count each of Cruelty to Children in the First Degree, Aggravated Battery, and Aggravated Assault

States case:

Defendant was accused of violently shaking his girlfriend’s 9-month old baby to death. Doctors discovered the “triad” of symptoms commonly associated with “Shaken Baby Syndrome”: bleeding on the brain, swelling of the brain, and bleeding in the eyes. Autopsy revealed other injuries, including a broken leg, trauma in the neck, and multiple areas of bleeding and bruising inside and out. Medical personnel and police suspected child abuse. Police interrogated Defendant over a period of six hours. Initially, Defendant claimed the baby fell off the couch. But he eventually admitted to shaking the baby out of frustration and then accidentally dropping the baby. Defendant also reenacted the events on camera, showing police how he shook and dropped the baby.

Judgement:

Defendant’s case sat idle for nearly 2 years before Mr. Rubin and Mr. Hodges were hired. The court gave counsel only 4 months to prepare for trial. Counsel immediately obtained and studied the discovery. They learned that while Defendant admitted to shaking the baby, he claimed that the baby was unharmed by the shaking—that he was fine until Defendant accidentally tripped and dropped him later, at which point he became unresponsive. Although Defendant gave detailed descriptions of how he dropped the baby, nobody with the police, the hospitals, or the Medical Examiner’s office paid much attention to the drop as a possible cause of injury and death (if they learned about it all). To most, it was a clear case of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.”

Counsel subpoenaed additional medical records and forwarded all the records and case materials to several experts: a Medical Examiner from Florida, a former Pediatrician and “Shaken Baby Syndrome” researcher from Alabama, a retired Chief Medical Examiner of Georgia, and a Biomechanical Engineer from Georgia. All of them concluded that: 1). the baby’s head injuries could not have been caused by shaking; 2). the baby’s head injuries were consistent with the accidental drop Defendant described; and 3). all the other “injuries” noted at autopsy were consistent with life-saving interventions specifically described by emergency and medical personnel in the case.

Counsel presented all this evidence at trial, and the jury found Defendant NOT GUILTY of Malice Murder, 3 counts of Felony Murder, Cruelty to Children, and Aggravated Battery. He was found guilty of 1 count of Aggravated Assault for admittedly shaking the baby.

State v. John Doe (2014)

Charges: Cruelty to Children 2nd Degree; Battery

States case:

The defendant violently struck his girlfriend and drove erratically, causing visible injury to his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter

Judgement:

The state indicted the defendant on the word of defendant's ex-girlfriend that he had been abusive. Defense counsel demonstrated that the ex-girlfriend was abusive towards him after defendant tried to break off their relationship and that she lied to the police about her injuries and those sustained by her daughter. The state dismissed the charges.

State v. John Doe: (2014)

Charges: Felony Murder, Cruelty to Children, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The father violently shook his 2 month old son due to his son's fussiness, causing subdural and subpial hemorrhages and his death. He was facing Life in prison.

Judgement:

Following Defense Counsel’s intensive review of the facts of the case and their work with medical experts in pediatric neuroradiology, pediatric neuropathology, blood disorders, and acute life threatening events (ALTEs), defense counsel learned that the bleeding in the child's head was the result of a venous thrombosis (ruptured clot) and complications of cardiac arrest, not a violent shaking. After cross-examining the state's witnesses at trial and presenting their defense of the case to a jury, the state elected to dismiss all murder charges prior to the jury deliberating. The case concluded with the defendant accepting 4 years of probation to criminal negligence under the First Offender statute and no admission of guilt. After probation, the defendant will not have a record of the offense.

State v. John Doe: (2013)

Charges: Felony Murder, Cruelty to Children, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The father was home alone with his 4-month-old daughter who was fussy and hard to calm. He shook her, causing subdural hematomas, retinal hemorrhages, and her death.

Judgement:

Following Defense Counsel’s intensive review of the facts of the case and their work with medical experts in pediatric neuroradiology and acute life threatening events (ALTEs), defense counsel convinced the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss all charges just before trial.

State v. John Doe (2009)

Charges: Domestic Family Violence Battery (Felony)

States case:

The step-father defendant was arrested and charged for punching and breaking his 14-year-old step-son’s nose.

Judgement:

Following multiple court hearings, regarding the production of juvenile court records, youth detention center records, psychological records, and school records of the alleged victim, the defense was able to demonstrate to the state that the alleged victim was known for violence, was known for starting physical altercations with others, and that the defendant was merely defending himself. The state agreed to dismiss the indictment in exchange for proof of family counseling.

State v. John Doe (2012)

Charges: Aggravated Battery, Cruelty to Children, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The alleged victim,a 9 month old baby boy, was alleged by the State to have received abusive head trauma from shaking by Defendant.

Judgement:

Following defense investigation of facts, preparation of case for trial, and presentation of evidence to the District Attorney, the arrest warrants were dismissed by District Attorney.

State v. John Doe (2011)

Charges: Cruelty to Children 1st Degree

States case:

Defendant maliciously assaulted his 4-year-old son with a belt and punched him in the eye.

Judgement:

The alleged victim’s mother reported to police that her son told her that the defendant, the alleged victim’s father, punched him. Defendant denied the allegation. Defense investigation revealed that the alleged victim had been terminated from several daycare programs for wild and violent behavior. While defendant had disciplined his son, he had done so in the presence of two other witnesses who confirmed that the defendant firmly, yet with care, disciplined his son by first explaining to his son the reasons for discipline and then by spanking his son’s bottom. By further reconstructing the discipline, the defense was able to show that during the punishment, his son thrashed about in such a way that he (the son) hit his own eye on the corner of the bed which caused him a black eye. The DA’s office felt the discipline was reasonable and thus lawful and that the injury to the alleged victim’s eye was an accident. They chose not to present the case to the Grand Jury.

State v. Jane Doe (2011)

Charges: Cruelty to Children 1st Degree

States case:

Defendant maliciously assaulted her 9-year-old son with a belt, which bruised his face, arms, and wrist.

Judgement:

Based on defendant’s role as a single mother, she opted, for the first time in her life, to discipline her son via corporal punishment due to her son’s recent and extensive history of bad conduct in school and at home. She took a belt and attempted to slap him across the wrist. By reconstructing the discipline, the defense was able to show that during the punishment, her son moved in such a way that explained the accidental slap of the belt on his cheek. The mark on his arm was due to pulling away and falling against a nearby chair. With that, and the defendant’s stellar reputation in the community, the DA’s office chose not to present the case to the Grand Jury.

State v. John Doe (2010)

Charges: Child Cruelty in the 1st Degree

States case:

The defendant maliciously assaulted his 6 year old daughter by hitting her with a tree branch on her body and by pushing her down to the ground where he used his hand to force dirt in her mouth, which was physically and emotionally cruel.

Judgement:

The defendant who was going through a custody battle with his ex-wife denied hitting his daughter in the manner described and denied holding her down and forcing her to eat dirt. The ex-wife, however, did not believe him and eagerly supported her daughter's assertions. In fact, the girl had a history of being physically and verbally violent to both parents, even at such a young age. Emails and text messages demonstrated both parents trying to cope with it. With that in mind, the defense also pulled school records and psychological records, which demonstrated that the girl, at times, was uncontrollable with therapist and teachers, and that she often needed to be physically removed from various environments. The documents also established the great efforts that the defendant had gone to to help his daughter and keep her under control. On the day in questions, she was being disrespectful and physically aggressive. While the defendant put the girl in "time out," he did not assault her as described, as he was not comfortable being physical with discipline. Ultimately, the defense demonstrated to the state the defendant's good character and that, via physical evidence, that the girl's statements to her mother were not true. The truth was that the mother, being biased against the defendant due to the custody battle, was fooled by her daughter. The district attorney's office chose not to present the case to the Grand Jury.

State v. Jane Doe (2008)

Charges: Domestic Violence Family Battery

States case:

Defendant was arrested for bruising, slapping, and scratching her daughter.

Judgement:

Defendant’s daughter called police after defendant allegedly grabbed her and wrestled her to the ground in an attempt to take the daughter’s cell phone. The daughter called other family members to assist her in prosecuting her mother. The family called investigators and the state attorneys and urged them to put defendant behind bars. Defense investigated the facts and interviewed witnesses and learned that the daughter, a 15-year-old, was running up her cell phone bill for hundreds of dollars and was angry at her mother when she tried to take it away. Defense also learned that the defendant had been taking care of her mentally ill mother and managing her estate, paying for doctors' bills and home health care. Defense further learned that the reason the family was so eager to put defendant behind bars was so they could get their hands on the mother’s estate, put her in a home and use the money for themselves. Based on the family’s motive, the daughter’s behavior, and the defendant’s good character, the state dismissed the charges and agreed to expunge the defendant’s record. The defendant and her daughter are fine and the daughter now pays for her own cell phone.

State v. Jane Doe (2007)

Charges: Aggravated Battery, Cruelty to Children, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The Defendant was a 32 year old female who was alleged to have shaken a six month old baby boy which she babysat. The State alleged she violently shook the baby causing the child permanent brain damage and loss of eye site. The State presented 11 medical experts to testify that the baby had been violently shaken by the Defendant. The defense presented 5 medical experts that the child's injuries were a result of complications from the child's birth.

Judgement:

2 week jury trial, Not Guilty All Counts.

State v. John Doe (2006)

Charges: Aggravated Assault, Cruelty to Children

States case:

The Defendant had a psychotic break and was taken to the police station by his parents. The police tried to get him to cooperate with them and release his one year old daughter to them. The Defendant refused to release his daughter while fighting the police. During the ensuing fight, he choked his daughter until she passed out.

Judgement:

The defense presented evidence of the paranoia and delusions of the Defendant at the time of this incident. However, instead of raising an insanity defense, the defense argued that the Defendant had no intention of hurting his daughter. In fact the evidence showed that the Defendant's goal during the fight was to protect his daughter from the police. After a 3 day trial the Defendant was found not guilty on all counts.

State v. Jane Doe (2006)

Charges: Felony Murder, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The Defendant was represented by other counsel at her jury trial on allegations that she had shaken to death a six month old baby boy she had been babysitting. The Defendant was sentenced to life in prison.

Judgement:

Mr. Peters was successful in having the trial judge set aside all guilty verdicts after hearing testimony from seven medical expert witnesses whose testimony indicated the child died from sickle cell disease and not from shaking. Motion for New Trial Granted. Defendant released from prison.

In RE: BB (an Infant) (2003)

Charges: Aggravated Battery, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The Defendants were the parents of a five week old baby boy. The parents were suspected of shaking their baby, causing severe brain damage.

Judgement:

Following defense investigation of facts, preparation of case for trial, and presentation of evidence to the Attorney General the Petition for Deprivation of Parental Rights was dismissed by Attorney General. Following dismissal, Fulton County Police declined to prosecute.

State v. John Doe (2001)

Charges: Cruelty to Children, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The alleged victim was a seven week old baby and was rushed to the hospital at 4:00 a.m. during which time he was under the immediate care of his father. The child was admitted to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and found to have subdural hematomas, retinal hemorrhages, and was diagnosed by the doctors as a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Judgement:

Following defense investigation of facts, preparation of case for trial, and presentation of evidence to the District Attorney the arrest warrant dismissed by District Attorney

State v. John Doe (2001)

Charges: Felony Murder, Cruelty to Children, Aggravated Child Molestation and Aggravated Sexual Battery, Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The Defendant was a 14 year old boy who was accused of inserting his finger into the vagina of a 23 month old baby he was babysitting and then shaking her to death.

Judgement:

Two week jury trial, Not Guilty All Counts.

State v. John and Jane Doe (2000)

Charges: Shaken Baby Syndrome

States case:

The Defendants were placed under investigation and their child taken from them when their 8 month old son was brought to Athens Regional Hospital. Their baby was then transferred to Egelston Hospital where doctors diagnosed child as having subdural hematomas and retinal hemorrhages and a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Judgement:

Following defense investigation of facts, preparation of case for trial, and presentation of evidence to the State the Department of Family and Children Services and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, the investigation was terminated.

State v. John and Jane Doe (1996)

Charges: Cruelty to Children and Reckless Conduct

States case:

Defendants (husband and wife) were indicted for one count of Cruelty to Children for intentionally breaking the legs of their two month old daughter and one count of Reckless Conduct for not seeking immediate and proper medical treatment for the child s broken legs.

Judgement:

Two week jury trial, Not Guilty All Counts.

State v. Dr. Jane Doe (1995)

Charges: Murder

States case:

The Defendant was a prominent neonatologist indicted for the murder of a premature infant baby which she was treating in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Clayton County, Georgia.

Judgement:

2 1/2 week Jury Trial. Jury deadlocked at 8 to 4 for acquittal. District Attorney then dismissed the indictment and did not retry Defendant. Defendant was represented by Douglas N. Peters and co-counsel Bobby Lee Cook.

Robert G. Rubin

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Jason B. Sheffield

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