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Experts Differed on Infant’s Head Trauma

A jury was entitled to reject expert testimony from a physician who of­fered alternative explanations for head trauma suffered by defendant’s infant daughter, in favor of an opinion by the prosecution’s expert on child abuse, and the Court of Appeals finds no reason to disturb the finding that defendant was responsible for his child’s injuries; his conviction of aggravated malicious wounding is affirmed.

The evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the commonwealth was suf­ficient to permit the jury to conclude that the evidence did not contain a rea­sonable theory of innocence. Dr. Susan Lamb, a child abuse pediatrics fellow, after examining the child and review­ing her medical records, diagnosed the infant with abusive head trauma. Dr. Lamb found the child had sustained subdural and retinal hemorrhages and had retinoschisis in her right eye. The child also had a bruise on her back and a fractured clavicle. Dr. Lamb stated there was nothing in the child’s prior medical history that could explain these various injuries and there were also no reported accidents that could explain them.

Expert testimony

Although defendant’s expert, Dr. John Lloyd, testified that the child’s symp­toms were due to a non-traumatic cause, an apparent life-threatening event, Dr. Lamb testified in rebuttal that such an event would not explain the constella­tion of injuries the child experienced. Conflicting expert opinions constitute a question of fact for the fact finder. Here, the jury credited the testimony of Dr. Lamb as opposed to that of Dr. Young, as was proper in its role as fact finder. We find no reason to disturb the jury deter­mination.

Further, despite defendant’s conten­tions, the jury was entitled to find that the evidence excluded all hypotheses other than abusive head trauma and that defendant was the cause of such trauma.

We cannot say the jury’s finding of malice was plainly wrong or without supporting evidence. He was the adult caregiver of his two-and-one-half-month old daughter. He admitted to a detective that he had shaken her in his forearms, but stated he “wasn’t going to town on her” and “was scared.” He initially with­held this information from the detective and only later told him after stating that he “may have made a mistake.” Dr. Lamb testified that the force associated with the types of injuries the child had would be “well outside of normal parenting” and the last case she saw with similar injuries was that of a child in a car ac­cident.

Finally, defendant failed to make the necessary proffer to preserve his claim that the trial court erred in not qualify­ing defendant’s expert in biomechanics, as the expert did not have a medical li­cense.

Conviction of aggravated malicious wounding is affirmed.

Stephens v. Commonwealth (Mal­veaux) No. 1432-15-1, Oct. 25, 2016; Newport News Cir.Ct. (Fisher) Jona­than P. Sheldon for appellant; Aaron J. Campbell, AAG, for appellee. VLW 016-7- 248(UP) 14 pp.