A jury in Fairfax County, Virginia found a day-care provider guilty of felony child abuse and child cruelty for shaking a 4-month-old infant, causing him permanent brain damage.
The trial was significant in that the defense strategy focused on calling into question the concept of “shaken baby syndrome”, the constellation of signs and symptoms resulting from violently shaking or hitting the head of an infant. For this, the defense attorneys recruited a corps of so-called experts who have made a career (with incredible financial benefits) testifying against the concept of shaken-baby syndrome. Most notably, the defense called upon Dr. Ronald Uscinski, a pediatric neurosurgeon who, according to court records, made more than $200,000 dollars last year testifying in child abuse cases, to fortify their case that shaken-baby syndrome is “junk science”.
A victory for the defense would have set back decades of child abuse advocacy and opened the flood gates to hundreds of abusers claiming that the injuries they inflicted were not, in fact, their responsibility.
Luckily, the jury saw through this defense, and found the provider guilty.
There are several disturbing elements to this saga. The fact that physicians like Dr. Uscinski sell their credentials to the highest bidder and spouse scientifically invalid theories just to make a buck is extremely disquieting and potentially unethical. It was only through the testimony of physicians like Craig Futterman, a pediatric critical care physician at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, and Christian Muller, a Fairfax neuroradiologist, that the jury saw through the attempted deceit of the defense. The relevant ethics and licensing boards should investigate Dr. Uscinski, and his license suspended or revoked if it is found that his repeated testimony only serves his own pecuniary benefit.
Just as disturbing are unconfirmed reports that the Peruvian government provided more than just emotional support to the defendant, a national of that country. I wonder what the reaction would be around the world if an American citizen accused of child abuse in another country has his defense paid for by the United States government.
As it stands, the jury only took five hours to decide that “shaken baby syndrome” exists and that the defendant should go to jail. But the advocates of the victims of child abuse should remain vigilant to cases like this. It only takes one jury to believe