Harry J. Bonnell, M.D.

The evidence suggests the possibility of multiple potential causes of death.”

Concluding that, among other things, the facts and medical history suggest multiple potential causes of Nikki’s death other than the flawed “Shaken Baby” hypothesis put forth by the State at trial: “it is my opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the existing evidence suggests the possibility of multiple potential causes of death, which were not recognized or investigated at the time. Yet generally accepted clinical standards governing the science of forensic pathology requires that the cause of death be determined with reasonable medical certainty, and that all other possible causes of death be ruled out on a scientific basis. The manner of death, which is an opinion and not scientific fact, relies upon an accurate determination of the cause of death and thorough knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the incident or disease causing the death.”

Janice J. Ophoven, M.D.

Her [medical examiner Jill Urban’s] testimony was incorrect as a basic matter of pathology medicine, and the photos she described were highly misleading.”

Observing, among other things, significant deception in the way Nikki’s injuries were presented to the jury: “Photographs of the bloody scalp, skull and brain surface were offered into evidence without qualifying the extent of the bleeding that took place while the child was in the ICU. The child was suffering from abnormal clotting, which would be reflected in significant ongoing bleeding into the scalp and intracranial cavity during the hours she was in care. Thus, when [the medical examiner Jill Urban] purported that these photos accurately reflected injury, her testimony was incorrect as a basic matter of pathology medicine, and the photos she described were highly misleading. Given Dr. Urban’s failure to qualify the quantum of bleeding that was the result of injury this potentially misled the jury to believe that the bleeding depicted in the picture was entirely the result of the injury.”

“Dr. Urban goes on to describe [in her testimony at trial] factors in a 2 year-old child that would make them more vulnerable to shaking. Those purported factors were never scientifically established in a child of this age—and would be thoroughly rejected now. Risks of shaking the very small infant (typically < 6 months] were originally based on the higher water content, brain immaturity, and very weak neck muscles in the newborn. A child of over 2 years’ brain, however, is closer in maturation to that of older children/adults. The brain contains more abundant myelin, and the child’s increased muscle strength stabilizes the neck. The ability of an adult human to deliver a fatal injury to a child of this size and weight by shaking has never been verified. The neck and spine tissues of a child this size and weight are more vulnerable such that extensive neck or spinal injuries would have been evident had injury occurred in this manner.”

“In my opinion, the presumption of child abuse and the cognitive bias that accompanies such a presumption prevented the medical personnel who treated Nikki and the medical examiner, Dr. Urban, who assessed the cause of death, from reaching their conclusions based on sound science. At that time, in early 2002, there was widespread confidence in the ability to conclude that a child had been injured as a result of intentional shaking resulting in what was then commonly referred to as ”Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Syndrome.”

John Plunkett, M.D.

[Recent] analyses conclude that the evidence to support “shaking” as an injury mechanism is weak or non-existent.”

Recounting how and why the science of determining cause of infant and child brain injuries has evolved since 2002: “Physicians … need not know or apply injury mechanics if they are responsible for diagnosis and treatment. For example, for treatment purposes, it is not necessary to know if a fall from a ladder or a blow from a baseball bat caused a fracture. However, if a physician ventures from diagnosis and treatment to speculation of an ultimate mechanical cause for an injury, he/she must understand mechanics and the relevant literature in order to give a reliable expert opinion. Only a few practicing physicians understood these concepts in 2002.”

Research since Robert’s trial has “raised the possibility that brain findings that previously had been attributed to traumatically torn axons from violent shaking might instead reflect hypoxia/ischemia from any condition that impedes blood flow to the brain. Many conditions may result in such a disruption, including, but not limited to, infection, metabolic abnormalities, and inherited disorders. Since the morphology and distribution of nerve fiber damage due to lack of oxygen may be identical to that of damage due to mechanical loading, it may be difficult, and many researchers say impossible, to differentiate these two potential causes based on the microscopic morphology and distribution alone.”

Kenneth L. Monson, Ph.D.

Literature reports a handful of cases where children have been seriously injured from short falls.

Explaining developments in the field of biomechanical engineering that demonstrate how and why short falls can cause serious, and even fatal, injuries in small children:

“Contrary to the testimony provided by medical professionals at Mr. Roberson’s trial, the literature reports a handful of cases where children have been seriously injured from short falls. While it is true that there are a low number of such cases, biomechanical research supports the idea that short falls may produce serious injury when a child falls in such a way that their head is exposed to the full energy of the fall. Biomechanical research undertaken since the time of Mr. Roberson’s trial in 2002-early 2003 reinforces that conclusion.”

“[B]ecause any shaking-induced loading of the brain clearly must be applied through the neck, the general lack of neck injury in purported shaking cases has also been recognized as a concern with the theory.”

Justice for Robert Roberson ©2020

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