Lawyers for a nanny accused of killing a baby in Cambridge last year argued Thursday that records from another pending infant death case could help prove their client’s innocence.
David Meier, a lawyer for Aisling Brady McCarthy, told a Superior Court judge that a key prosecution witness in the case against his client also offered an opinion in the case of Geoffrey Wilson, a former MIT employee charged in 2010 with killing his 6-month-old son.
But the medical examiner recently determined there is no way to tell if the boy in the Wilson case was murdered, calling into question the diagnosis of one of the prosecution’s chief witnesses, Dr. Alice Newton.
Newton had determined that both the Wilson boy and 1-year-old Rehma Sabir, whom McCarthy is accused of killing, died of abusive head trauma, which was formerly called shaken baby syndrome.
If medical records from the 2010 case show that Newton’s diagnosis was flawed, Meier said, they might also call into question her determination in the McCarthy investigation.
“Perhaps Dr. Newton’s credibility, reliability, and believability in the McCarthy case, never mind as she opines about abusive head trauma and shaken baby syndrome in general, is impeachable by the evidence in this [Wilson] case,” Meier said.
Meier asked Superior Court Judge Maureen B. Hogan to order prosecutors to turn over any potentially exculpatory evidence.
Hogan took the matter under advisement. Newton declined to comment through a spokeswoman for Massachusetts General Hospital, where she now works. She was formerly the medical director of the child protection program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Assistant Middlesex District Attorney Katharine B. Folger contended that the McCarthy and Wilson cases “are very different.”
“There is no indication that any evidence in the Wilson matter would be exculpatory,” she said.
Lawyers said the cases were linked Aug. 1 when a medical examiner officially reversed his initial ruling that the Wilson baby was killed in a homicide. J.W. Carney Jr., the lawyer for Geoffrey Wilson, said the change came after defense experts raised concerns about a possible inherited disorder that made the child more susceptible to the brain bleeding that caused his death.
Carney, who was in court Thursday to represent the Wilson family, said the Wilson baby’s mother and grandmother have a rare genetic defect that can cause weaknesses in collagen, which would make a person more susceptible to ruptures of arteries or veins.
Outside court Thursday, Carney said the Wilson case exposes the danger of hasty diagnoses after a baby’s death. He said it also shows that doctors should always consider any “additional information” about the child’s medical background that could lead to a death from natural causes.
A hearing on a motion to dismiss the charges against Wilson is scheduled for Sept. 18. Carney said he does not think a jury could find his client guilty. Wilson has been out on bail since 2010.
“If the medical examiner cannot exclude natural causes as the reason this infant died, there’s no way a jury should be able to find beyond a reasonable doubt that it’s the opposite,” he said.
Carney told Hogan the Wilson family would not oppose release of their records for the McCarthy case, as long as the documents are sealed from the public with a protective order.