Macomb Circuit Court Grants 6.500 Motion in a Shaken Baby Syndrome Child Abuse Case. Court Finds Child Might Have Died from a Stroke

On November 20, 2009, the Macomb Circuit Court (Judge Biernat) granted post-conviction relief in People v Julie Baumer, Macomb Circuit No. 2004-2096-FH based on the ineffective assistance of her trial and appellate counsel in failing to seek to have a defense radiologist appointed to counter the State’s expert radiologist in first degree child abuse prosecution involving allegations of non-accidental trauma (“shaken baby syndrome”) inflicted within 12-24 hours of the images. The State’s experts testified that the injuries were the result of an intentional and very significant blunt force trauma.

Defense counsel was aware of the need of a radiologist testimony to counter the state’s evidence. Because of financial concerns, this expert was not presented. Instead, defense counsel presented the testimony of Dr. Janice Ophoven (a pediatric forensic pathologist) who testified that she disagreed with the State’s expert’s interpretation of the CT scans and MRIs, but that she was not qualified to offer an expert alternate interpretation.

Even though
MCL 775.15 provides that a court can appoint an expert for the defense, such a motion was not filed. After Ms. Baumer’s convictions were affirmed by the Michigan Court of Appeals, a Detroit area nun (Sister Lois) became absolutely convinced of Ms. Baum’s innocence. She pleaded with the Dean at Ave Maria Law School to find someone to take Julie's appeals. Ave Marie authorized a number of students to work on the case and guided by lead counsel and then Professor Charles I. Lugosi, they assembled a national team of counsel which also included Heather Kirkwood from Washington State, Greg Iannelli of Arizona, and Macomb County Attorney Carl Marlinga. They enlisted a number of national medical experts who prepared reports indicating that the child did not die of abuse or traumatic injury. The cause of injury was venous sinus thrombosis (“VST”) which is a form of stroke. After the evidentiary hearing, the Court found that counsel was ineffective. The Court also stated that Ms. Baumer may be actually innocent, but that the Court did not need to reach this issue. To read the Macomb County Daily’s coverage of the evidentiary hearing, click here. To read the Court’s opinion, click on the link at the end of this sentence.Baumer Opinion & Order001-1