New Scientific Research Entitles Florida Father to Evidentiary Hearing on Child Abuse Charges

The case of a father convicted of child abuse in Pinellas County back in the 1990s is back in the news again. Multiple news sources, including CNN and the Tampa Bay Times, have revisited the father’s story after the Second District Court of Appeal recently ruled that the newly discovered evidence presented by the father’s legal team entitled him to a hearing. The evidence, according to the defense lawyers, showed that the child’s injuries were due to a bone disease and that the child was not a victim of abuse at all. The headline-making case shows just how important scientific evidence can be in certain criminal defense matters.

The facts of this case and the arguments on appeal sound like something from a medical drama on TV. A father and mother noticed that their infant son was in pain and not using the left side of his body. They took him to the emergency room. There, the medical staff diagnosed the child with 13 broken bones and a skull fracture. The doctors contacted law enforcement, who arrested the father. The state charged the father with aggravated child abuse and accused him of shaking the baby violently. The jury convicted the man, and the judge sentenced him to 70 years.

The father, however, maintained that he never abused the child. More recently, his lawyers discovered evidence that, they argued, backed up this claim. The defense lawyers have centered their appeal around an Ohio doctor’s research, indicating that the types of injuries that this baby suffered were inconsistent with child abuse. According to the research, this baby’s injuries were more consistent with metabolic bone disease.

In his appeal, the father argued that the evidence of metabolic bone disease was newly discovered evidence that he did not have at the time of his trial and, if presented to a jury, likely would have yielded an acquittal.

The appeals court concluded that the father was entitled to a hearing. The rule regarding newly discovered evidence says that the evidence must not have been known by the defense and must not have been discoverable by the defense, even with the use of due diligence. It also says that the new evidence must be persuasive enough “that it would probably produce an acquittal on retrial.”

The appeals court’s ruling in favor of granting this father a hearing is also important for what it said about the types of evidence that can (or cannot) constitute the sort of “newly discovered evidence” needed. The lower court in this case had ruled that “scientific evidence in the form of articles and studies” could not constitute valid newly discovered evidence. The appeals court stated that this was not correct, meaning that a person seeking relief based upon newly discovered evidence can rely upon factual evidence or scientific evidence like medical studies or reports.

In this case, the father was seeking justice based upon evidence that was not reported in a peer-reviewed scientific publication until almost 18 years after his conviction. Sometimes, the scientific evidence you need isn’t available at the time of trial. Other times, though, there does exist valuable scientific evidence that’s available at the time you go to trial and that, if presented to a jury, can go a long way in strengthening your defense.

In your criminal case, you need a legal team that is both thoughtful and knowledgeable. The skillful Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. have been helping the accused defend their rights for many years. Our experienced attorneys are ready to discuss your case with you and provide you with the clear and understandable advice you need. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation and get the answers and assistance you need.

More blog posts:

When Even a Small Flaw in the State’s Case Can Overturn a Conviction in Florida, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Nov. 23, 2016

Bad luck or murder? Trial is now for man who lost two wives, Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, Sept. 11, 2015

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