Dr. Patrick Barnes Testifies In Alleged Shaken Baby Case.
FRANKLIN COUNTY — After hearing from doctors about her brain injuries for nearly a week, a Franklin County jury saw a smiling and squealing Leiana Billups in person on Thursday.
Now nearly 18 months old, the apparently content little girl was carried into Judge Shawn Meyers’ courtroom by her mother, Jacqueline Rosario, during the afternoon trial session.
Most of the jurors smiled widely at the small child, who was allegedly shaken by her father when she was 3 months old.
Both sides have now presented their evidence, and only closing arguments remain before the jury will be sent to deliberate whether Jamel Lee Billups was responsible for his daughter’s permanent brain damage.
The trial was expected to resume at 8:30 a.m. today, beginning with the defense’s closing arguments. Meyers told the jury that he will instruct them to begin deliberating after both sides have finished, probably by lunchtime.
Billups, 32, Chambersburg, is charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child. He denies ever physically harming his daughter.
A doctor in California told the jury via teleconference Thursday he believes the baby suffered from a combination of health conditions that “mimic child abuse.” Defense witness Dr. Patrick Barnes, a pediatric neuroradiologist at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, appeared live on a television in front of the jury box.
Having reviewed Leiana’s medical history and test results,
Barnes said he concluded the blood on her brain and retinal bleeding were the result of a stroke-causing disorder called cerebral venous thrombosis.
According to previous testimony by other doctors, CVT is a rare disorder not known to cause the type of brain bleeding or the retinal bleeding seen in Leiana. But Barnes said recent advances in medical technology and research show this is not true.
During her cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sulcove asked Barnes if he would agree that CVT is very rare.
“Ten years ago, I would have agreed with that. Now I would not agree,” he said. “It is much more common than we thought, especially in infants.”
Expert witnesses for both sides have testified that Leiana has tested deficient for an anti-clotting agent called “protein S.” Barnes testified that lack of the protein is linked to the appearance of CVT.
Barnes’ testimony also addressed the appearance of 16 rib fractures found in X-rays taken when the girl was 3 months old.
Doctors testifying for the prosecution said an X-ray taken when she was 11 days old showed no fractures, proving the injuries had occurred thereafter. The healing fractures were estimated at between four and eight weeks old.
A vitamin D deficiency found in Leiana’s mother indicates that the baby was likely deficient when she was born, Barnes said. A severe lack of the vitamin has been linked to a “bone fragility disorder” called congenital rickets.
Barnes testified that the fractures may have actually occurred during Leiana’s birth, but were too small to appear in a standard X-ray when she was only days old. He also pointed out that the fractures were in the front portion of the baby’s ribs, not in the back as normally occurs in incidents of “shaken baby syndrome.”
Sulcove asked Barnes if he was aware of any other case where a baby was diagnosed with CVT and a bone fragility disorder in conjunction with the same type of brain and retinal bleeding as Leiana.
“Not as of yet, that I know of,” he said.
Asked how many times this year he had testified in a child abuse trial on behalf of the defense, Barnes said it had been “at least once a month.”
Sulcove pointed out that a number of doctors who had helped treat the baby all determined the cause of her problems to be child abuse.
“So they’re wrong and you’re right, even though you never met Leiana Billups?” she asked him.
“That is correct,” Barnes said.
His testimony lasted all morning, and Meyers called a lunch recess shortly after noon. When the trial reconvened, the jury was introduced to Leiana.
According to testimony Wednesday, Leiana and her toddler-age older sister have both been living at home with their mother since February 2010.
After the baby’s appearance, Chambersburg Police Detective Sgt. Dianne Kelso, who testified Monday, was called back to the witness stand to provide a rebuttal to statements made by Billups and Rosario during their testimonies Wednesday.
Both had told the jury that Leiana’s older sister, then 2 years old, was taken from them at Chambersburg Hospital on Oct. 19, 2009. They said they went to the police station that evening under the impression that they would get their older daughter back.
Kelso testified Thursday that she spoke with the couple at the hospital, telling them that the child had been taken as a matter of standard protocol and that it would not be up to police to return her.
After Kelso stepped down, Billups and Rosario were called back to the stand by the defense. Both said they were told that they would get the girl back after they gave a statement to police. Billups said he was “coerced.”
During cross-examination, Sulcove asked him if he was otherwise reluctant to speak with police because he had “something to hide.” His response was heated.
“Are you serious? Are you serious? No is the answer,” Billups said.
Before he adjourned court shortly before 3 p.m., Meyers instructed the jury to hold off on making any decisions about the case and to refrain from researching any of the complex medical information that had been presented.
“You need to continue to honor your oath,” he said.