WOBURN — A Middlesex Superior Court judge refused Thursday to dismiss murder charges against an Irish nanny accused of fatally beating a 1-year-old Cambridge girl, but threw out a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
Judge S. Jane Haggerty said prosecutors appropriately argued to a grand jury that the nanny, Aisling Brady McCarthy, was the only person with the child when she sustained fatal injuries.
While Haggerty found that prosecutors should have been more proper in the way they presented the case to the grand jury, she said that the secret jury still had enough evidence to indict the nanny and that the case should go to trial. A trial is scheduled for April.
“The court recognizes that this grand jury proceeding was far from perfect and the prosecutor, at times, failed to limit or strike improper evidence from the record,” the judge said. “However, after reviewing the totality of the grand jury record, it is clear that the prosecutor’s missteps were not intentional and his presentation of the evidence was generally fair and balanced.”
McCarthy faces a first-degree murder charge in the Jan. 14 assault on Rehma Sabir at the child’s home near Harvard Square. Rehma died two days later. Prosecutors have compared the child’s injuries to shaken baby syndrome.
In court motions and statements in court, McCarthy’s attorneys have aggressively asserted her innocence, with one saying at a recent hearing that “an innocent person sits in jail” while they awaited more evidence in the case.
The lawyers, David Meier and Melinda Thompson, had filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge, as well as the charge of assault and battery causing bodily harm, saying there was insufficient evidence in the case. They also argued that prosecutors introduced overly prejudicial evidence.
Haggerty agreed to dismiss the assault and battery charge in a ruling signed late Wednesday. She found that at the time of Rehma’s death the child was healing from several bone fractures on her forearms and legs that, doctors said, had occurred between two weeks and two months before her death.
The defense team argued that Brady did not care for the child from Dec. 7 to Jan. 2, when the infant was traveling with her family overseas. They argued that the medical evidence showed the child had numerous preexisting injuries.
Haggerty agreed that there was no evidence that McCarthy, 35, caused those injuries.
On the murder charge, the judge said the grand jury properly heard evidence from a Children’s Hospital doctor who found that Rehma suffered brain swelling and other injuries from a violent injury that could only have been caused on the day of her death.
McCarthy herself told authorities that she was the only person who handled Rehma that day, once her mother left after breakfast. The child was lucid and awake when the mother left her, prosecutors told the grand jury.
Investigators found blood on towels near the child’s changing table that, her parents said, was not there before they left her the day of her death.
McCarthy’s lawyers argued that prosecutors unfairly presented prejudicial evidence to the grand jury, such as witness statements about McCarthy’s character and relations with the child. They said that prosecutors failed to disclose possible causes of the child’s injuries in the weeks before her death.
Haggerty, while agreeing that prosecutors could have struck some of the evidence from the record, found that the statements about McCarthy were appropriate.
“While this testimony may portray the defendant as a negligent caretaker, it is also probative as to the nature of the defendant’s relationship with Rehma,” the judge said.
“Additionally, this testimony sheds light on the defendant’s general attitude towards Rehma and elucidates what type of care she gave Rehma as her nanny.”
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