Thursday Jul 03 2008
Third trial decision for shaken baby case delayed
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Prosecution wants more time to review evidence, jury comments
The decision as to whether a nanny accused of fatally injuring a 15-month-old girl will go to a third trial has been postponed until late July. Thursday morning criminal defense attorney Mary Beth Acton filed a motion to dismiss the case against Veronica Martinez Salcedo. Salcedo is charged with assault causing the death of a child in the May 2006 death of toddler Hannah Rose Juceam. The prosecution contends that Hannah died as a result of brain injuries caused when Salcedo shook the toddler. The defense argued that a virus, and ultimately a stroke, caused Hannah’s death. Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wood said the prosecution would like additional time to question witnesses the defense used in the second trial. Wood said there is not necessarily new evidence to present to the court but rather a different interpretation of the evidence. Acton argued on Thursday to Judge Robert McElhany that the case should be dismissed because she believes there is no new evidence that the people can bring to the court. Additionally, she said, medical experts do not agree on symptoms surrounding shaken baby syndrome. She said in the second trial the defense proved that Hannah’s death was a result of blood clots, among other medical issues not relating to injuries resulting from being shook too hard. She said an additional trial would cause harassment to her client and the court has already incurred “incredible” expense and time on the matter. Wood countered that Acton’s motion dismissal was “premature.” He argued that given the length of time spent on the case — two trials in two years — allowing an additional three weeks to review evidence was not a large request. He said the prosecution would like to review the evidence before deciding whether or not to retry Salcedo. He said they are considering testimony jurors gave after the second trial ended with a jury deadlocked at 9-3 in favor of acquittal. Wood said jury members informed the district attorney that the actual vote was 7-5 in favor of acquittal. “I do not believe the evidence in this case is indicative of Ms. Salcedo’s innocence,” Wood told the judge. He countered Acton’s argument that medical experts disagree about symptoms relating to shaken baby syndrome. He said those who believe there is debate are in the minority of the medical community. He added that any trial poses a burden to all those involved and said cost should not be an issue. “To even suggest that we have to decide based on cost is totally a slap to the face of justice,” Wood said. He argued the additional weeks to allow the defense review time was not harassment to Salcedo. At the conclusion of arguments, McElhany decided to grant the additional weeks of review. Outside of the courtroom Thursday afternoon, Wood said he would not comment further as it was a pending case. Acton said some of the prosecution’s comments “surprised” her. She asserted that Hannah’s injuries were the result of several other medical issues, not shaken baby syndrome injuries. She said the cost of the trial is mostly based on paying experts — who she contended couldn’t agree. “If the medical community can’t agree, how can 12 people?” Acton asked. McElhany set a ruling for 8:30 a.m. July 28 in Dept. 13. The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at email@example.com or post a comment.