Monday, August 13, 2007

Abusive mother caused her son to suffer from seizures

A 23-year-old Tyler woman was found guilty Thursday of injuring her 7-week-old baby by violently shaking him.Susana Reyes, also known as Susana Solano, was convicted of injury to a child - intentionally or knowingly causing serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency or impairment to the baby. The jury in 114th District Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent's court deliberated for eight hours Thursday.

Eric Reyes, who turned 3 on Tuesday, suffered permanent brain loss from the Sept. 30, 2004 incident. His mother faces five to 99 years or life in prison when the trial resumes on Monday.Several doctors from the Children's Medical Center in Dallas testified for the state that they believed the boy suffered a collection of injuries that were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The boy had bleeding outside his brain, bleeding of his eyes and a fractured rib.Pediatric neurologist Dr. Lloyd Mercer testified for the defense that he examined the boy when he was brought into Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler. He said the infant's injuries were inconsistent with him being shaken and he believed they were caused by an accidental fall.After the boy began having seizures, Ms. Reyes told Mercer that she was walking with her baby when she tripped over a cat and fell and his head hit the carpeted floor.

The infant was transferred from Tyler to Dallas because of the seizures.During closing arguments, Assistant Smith County District Attorney Richard Vance said Ms. Reyes shook her son "to the point where his brain bled."He said the injuries were consistent with the baby being violently shaken."When she shook that child ... she knew what was happening," Vance said. "She knew that baby was going to be hurt."Defense attorney Robert Bennett said there were a lot of inconsistencies with what the doctors believed.

He said no one testified that they saw Ms. Reyes injure the child and no doctor could say that the injuries were caused, beyond a reasonable doubt, by shaking the baby.Bennett said someone else in Ms. Reyes' house could have harmed the child."They've not proven their case," he said, asking the jurors to fund his client not guilty.Ms. Reyes did not immediately tell the Tyler doctors that she fell with the child because she was an illegal immigrant and she was afraid she was going to get into trouble, Bennett said.Assistant District Attorney Jason Parrish disagreed, saying Ms. Reyes did not tell the doctors because she knew committing a felony would get her deported."

Justice in this case is guilty," he said. "Justice is making sure that a 3-year-old boy doesn't have to get in the hands of his abuser."He said the jurors had the right to rely on the opinions of the medical experts."When you shake a child, it is abusive head trauma," he said."Little Eric, 7 weeks old, can't protect himself. It is up to y'all to protect him," Parrish told the jurors, asking them to find him guilty.

Dr. Matthew Cox, a pediatrician and a specialist in injuries caused by child abuse or neglect, testified the victim's injuries were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. A simple fall to the floor would not cause the type of injuries the baby sustained, he said.He said when a child is violently shaken, it can cause the brain to jostle within the skull and lead to injuries to the brain tissue and tearing of the blood vessels and a "substantial risk of death."

Dr. Nancy Rollins, who specializes in radiology concerning children, has for the past 20 years examined Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and CAT Scans related to brain and spinal cord injuries in children.After reviewing Eric's images, Dr. Rollins believed "the child had been subjected to non-accidental trauma," she said, adding that his injuries were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Dr. Michael Dowling, a pediatric neurologist, said shaking a baby will cause bleeding in the brain and can lead to seizures, which Eric had.Nearly a year after his injuries were inflicted, on Aug. 5, 2005, Dowling said an examination of the infant showed a notable amount of permanent brain loss he expected would lead to learning or concentration difficulties.Mercer disagreed with the state's physicians.

He said he believed Eric's injuries were inconsistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Mercer believed they were caused by the baby falling and hitting his head on the floor, not child abuse.He said Ms. Reyes told him she fell with the child after the boy began having seizures, which caused him to be transferred from Tyler to Dallas.

Mercer said the fall could explain the seizures and bleeding outside the boy's brain. He said the only thing he saw that was consistent with Shaken Bay Syndrome was the bleeding in the baby's eyes. There was no bleeding inside the infant's brain, which is inconsistent with being shaken violently, added.


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