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Shaken Baby Acquittal

October 25, 2012 permalink

In Ohio babsitter Jennifer M Campbell has been acquitted by a jury of causing the shaken baby death of five-month-old Colleen Dobbins.



Sitter acquitted in baby’s death

Defense suggested no abuse occurred

Colleen Dobbins
Colleen Dobbins
Jennifer M Campbell
Jennifer M. Campbell, 30, denied she shook the baby.

Erin Dobbins slumped into her husband’s arms and wept yesterday when a Franklin County jury acquitted a baby sitter of murder in the death of the couple’s 5-month-old daughter.

Jennifer M. Campbell, 30, who testified that she did not abuse Colleen Dobbins, smiled at jurors with a look of relief as the judge announced not-guilty verdicts on all counts, which also included felonious assault, involuntary manslaughter and child endangering.

“I can’t imagine a more difficult case,” Common Pleas Judge Pat Sheeran told the jury of seven men and five women, who deliberated for nearly 10 hours over two days.

Campbell declined to comment through her attorneys, Jonathan and James Tyack, as she left the courtroom with her husband and two dozen family members and friends.

“Sometimes in our zeal to protect children, the investigators and medical people in these cases rush to judgment without considering all the evidence,” Jonathan Tyack said. “I believe the jury’s verdict reflects that.”

The rush-to-judgment claim was central to the case presented by the defense.

Medical experts for the prosecution and defense presented conflicting testimony about the possible causes of bleeding in Colleen’s brain.

She died on March 24, 2011, two days after she stopped breathing at Campbell’s Northwest Side condo and was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The Franklin County coroner’s office determined that she died of a traumatic brain injury and ruled the death a homicide.

Campbell began providing day care for the baby at her Hedgerow Road home in January after her husband and Erin Dobbins met while studying for doctoral degrees at Ohio State University. Mrs. Dobbins’ husband is Dave Dobbins, an assistant lacrosse coach at Ohio State.

Campbell testified that Colleen was crying with increasing intensity after awakening from a nap. She said the baby arched her back and stiffened, then went limp in her arms and stopped breathing as she tried to comfort her.

Campbell, a former lifeguard, said she administered rescue breaths before calling 911.

The autopsy confirmed the findings of doctors at the hospital who diagnosed a subdural hematoma, or bleeding on the surface of the baby’s brain, and bleeding at the back of her eyes. Colleen had no external injuries.

The “most devastating” evidence against Campbell was blood that had collected between the layers of the retina, Assistant Prosecutor Robert Letson said in his closing argument.

Experts for both sides said the condition is considered evidence of shaken-baby syndrome.

But Jonathan Tyack said police investigators and doctors at the hospital were so sure of their initial theory that they never explored other possible causes for Colleen’s condition, such as a bleeding disorder.

“In the end, this case is about arrogance,” Tyack said in his closing. He told jurors that the charges against his client “should scare you to death.”

He and James Tyack, his brother, focused on an illness that caused Colleen to vomit and kept her home for three days the week before her death. They attempted to show that a daily log kept by Campbell and Mrs. Dobbins provided evidence that the baby, while no longer vomiting, wasn’t well when she returned to the sitter’s care.

Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Hawkins told the jury in his rebuttal closing that the defense strategy was to divert their attention from “clear-cut medical evidence.”

“Their whole defense is about possibilities,” he said. “Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. This isn’t reasonable doubt. This is desperation. This is possible doubt.”

The jurors heard five days of testimony and more than three hours of closing arguments. Jury members declined to comment when approached after the verdicts.

Source: Columbus Dispatch