Published: Thursday, October 14, 2010
By Jameson Cook, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Baumer on trial second time, accused of injuring infant nephew
A jury this morning will begin deliberating the fate of a 34-year-old woman accused of severely abusing her baby nephew following a more than three-week trial loaded with conflicting medical testimony.
Julie Baumer is on trial for first-degree child abuse, accused of causing brain injury— skull fracture and brain and retinal bleeding — to infant Philippe Baumer, while under her care in October 2003.
The trial featured a battle of experts, as the prosecution presented three physicians, and the defense countered with six doctors.
Macomb prosecutors contend Baumer struck and violently shook the child, now named Benjamin, before taking him to Mount Clemens General Hospital, from where he was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. Benjamin, 7, whose mother is in prison for selling drugs, is severely disabled, requiring around-the-clock care by his adopted parents.
Assistant Macomb prosecutor Richard Goodman told jurors in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens during closing arguments Wednesday that Baumer hit Benjamin and realized “something happened.”
“The defendant became upset,” he said. “She shook him hoping to revive him, hoping she can get him to wake up. … Whatever the reason, anger, the defendant caused further injury.”
Or, he suggested, Baumer “could’ve been hitting him at the same time.”
This is Baumer’s second trial on the allegations. The former Harrison Township resident was convicted of first-degree child abuse following a trial in 2005 and served four years of a 10-year prison sentence. But her conviction was reversed after three prominent doctors agreed that Benjamin’s injuries were caused naturally. They say he suffered venous sinus thrombosis, aka “infant stroke,” which can mimic shaken baby syndrome.
“There is no evidence whatsoever this person (Baumer) is responsible” for Benjamin’s injuries, defense attorney Carl Marlinga argued during his two hours of closing argument. “It’s a totally natural event that doesn’t come from abuse.”
Free on bond, her case has been taken on by the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan .
Marlinga’s touted the expertise of his half-dozen doctor experts. “It wasn’t just their opinion; they backed it up,” said Marlinga, a former Macomb County prosecutor.
Goodman countered in his rebuttal that VST did not occur
“Nobody has reported this as happening this way; it’s never happened in 50 years,” he told jurors. “If you base your verdict on the evidence and not some theoretical possibility, you’ll find the defendant guilty.”
But Marling said VST is “becoming more diagnosed” and known in the medical industry.
Marlinga also touted Baumer’s character, as several witnesses testified that she was gentle in caring for other nieces and nephews, is “emotionally stable” and has no history of “uncontrollable behavior.” She “was excited” that she had agreed to adopt the boy since her sister could not care for him, he said.
But Goodman retorted: “Sure, she was a great aunt to (another nephew) and her other nieces and nephews, but that makes no prediction about her ability to care for an infant 24/7.
Update October 16. 2010 1:00AM
Woman acquitted after second trial on child-abuse charges
Jury rules not guilty in second trial after four years in prison
Christine Ferretti / The Detroit News
Mount Clemens — After more than four years in prison, Julie Baumer says her “nightmare” is over, following acquittal Friday by a second jury on claims she violently shook her infant nephew.
“I’m very grateful and happy that the nightmare in my life for seven years is finally over,” Baumer said from a Macomb County Circuit courtroom.
“I can finally start healing old wounds.”
Baumer, 34, of Harrison Township, was awarded a new trial on claims her legal counsel was ineffective when a jury convicted her of first-degree child abuse in 2005.
Prosecutors allege she violently shook her 6-week-old nephew, Philipp Baumer, leaving him blind and brain injured.
The child, now 7, was adopted and renamed Ben Zentz.
Baumer’s new attorney, Carl Marlinga, presented medical testimony at her second trial suggesting the boy suffered from venous sinus thrombosis or a “childhood stroke,” rather than abuse.
Jury foreman Sera Miller said she initially thought Baumer was guilty. But in the end, “there was reasonable doubt.”
“They could not tie Julie Baumer to the injuries the child sustained,” said Miller, 34. “I don’t think anyone will ever know what happened. It’s unsettling.”
Juror Jan Pfannes of Sterling Heights agreed.
“The prosecution did a good job producing what evidence they had, but the evidence wasn’t conclusive,” she said.
Assistant Prosecutor Richard Goodman said the verdict wasn’t a shock.
The case was based on circumstantial evidence, there were no eyewitnesses, and the time of the alleged abuse couldn’t be pinpointed.
“It’s a difficult case,” Goodman said. “It’s unfortunate that there’s no record saying Ben was abused and someone did it.”
Marlinga, a former Macomb County prosecutor, expects the verdict will impact allegations of shaken baby abuse nationwide.
“We now have a cautionary flag for police, prosecutors and physicians to consider VST (venous sinus thrombosis),” he said.
Ben’s adoptive mother, Debi Zentz, issued a statement saying the “verdict does not change our belief.”
“Reasonable doubt does not equate to innocence,” Zentz said, adding she believes in the diagnosis made at the time of Ben’s injuries.