Baby Christopher has been dead for nearly 10 years.
He was just 2.5 months-old when he died. Officials said an autopsy revealed he had suffered a skull fracture resulting from blunt force trauma to the head. His cause of death was ruled a homicide.
Yet it is only now that officials have arrested his mother, now 30, on charges of child endangerment and homicide.
Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneysknow that such cold cases pose a host of unique challenges for prosecutors, including aging forensics, witnesses who have retired or died, fading memories and an erosion of physical evidence.
Still, prosecutors certainly can and do win cold cases, and anyone facing charges this serious should immediately seek a skilled criminal defense attorney, regardless of the time that’s passed since the actual crime.
While there are some crimes for which the statute of limitations would have passed by now, homicide isn’t one of them.
As to why the case wasn’t brought closer to the time of the baby’s death, prosecutors said they weren’t confident they could prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and secure a conviction.
At the time, authorities say she gave conflicting accounts as to what occurred. Initially, she told the detective that the child had fallen out of the swing several days earlier, but only later became unresponsive.
Then in the midst of the interview, the defendant reportedly held up a phone to the detective and asked him to promise he would let her go if she told him what really happened. He made that promise (which was one she should have known he had no legal obligation to keep). However, she did not reveal any further information at that point.
Authorities say both the baby’s father and grandfather remember the child smiling and happy the night before his death. The child’s father added that about a month earlier, he had seen the mother strike the baby in the face when it would not stop crying.
A forensic pathologist would later say that the fracture on the baby’s skull was not consistent with a fall from a swing, and that whatever the injury, it would have occurred very close to the time the child became unresponsive.
Since the child’s death, the mother has been arrested for a string of petty crimes, such as shoplifting and possession of a dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia. She has a total of five living children, including two with her new boyfriend. Many of those children live with grandparents.
While these facts might not make her a mother of the year, they don’t make her a murderer either.
The origins of injuries to children – and infants especially – are often misdiagnosed. One need only look at the spate of shaken baby syndrome cases that swept the country in the last two decades. Some 1,000 children are diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome each year, with about 20 percent of those resulting in criminal trials.
However, a collaborative investigation by ProPublica and NPR revealed numerous instances of shaken baby convictions, which were later proven to be faulty, the defendants exonerated.
The problem isn’t just shaken baby. There are a number of other medical conditions or diseases with the potential to mimic child abuse, including blood disorders and vitamin deficiencies.
It’s not clear exactly what new evidence detectives uncovered that allowed them to be confident in an arrest today.
However, our criminal defense lawyers remain committed to vigorously challenging any and all evidence that poses a threat to our clients.