MEDFORD — The lawyer for the nanny accused of assaulting a 1-year-old girl who later died asked that her bail be reduced Friday, declaring that she is wrongly accused and has been held in custody more than two months without being charged with the child’s death.
“There is an innocent person sitting in jail,” said Melinda Thompson, who is defending Aisling Brady against charges of assaulting Rehma Sabir in January. The child sustained extensive head injuries and died two days later of massive brain trauma.
Prosecutors say Rehma was assaulted while in the “sole care and custody” of Brady, who was baby-sitting the child at Rehma’s Cambridge home. But they have not charged the native of Ireland, who was living in the country illegally, with homicide pending completion of an autopsy.
Thompson has contended that the child’s preexisting bone fractures suggested that others were responsible for hurting her.
On Jan. 14, Brady told police that she found Rehma in her crib clenching her fists, her arms and legs stiff. Medics found the girl unconscious but breathing.
At a court hearing Friday, prosecutors said that medical examiners had yet to make a final ruling on the “cause and manner” of the child’s death, and requested that a probable cause hearing be postponed a month.
In a motion, they stated that they “fully and firmly” expect to file more serious charges against Brady.
“The defendant’s alleged conduct on Jan. 14, 2013, in Cambridge resulted in the subsequent death of the 1-year-old Rehma Sabir,” prosecutors stated in a motion filed Friday.
Judge Roanne Sragow granted the request and declined to reconsider Brady’s $500,000 bail.
The delay continued the slow pace in the high-profile case and prolonged an uncertain legal situation in which prosecutors say they plan to charge Brady with the child’s death but have not produced the evidence to do so. Brady was arraigned on charges of assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury about a week after the baby died.
Thompson said in the courtroom that prosecutors were well aware that autopsies of children often take months and criticized the government’s case as weak.
“The charges have not been upgraded now for 65 days,” Thompson said in a sharp exchange with the judge.
Sragow said she did not think a four-week continuance was “unreasonable.”
Outside the courtroom, Thompson said Brady, 34, should not have been arrested or threatened with more serious charges before the autopsy was complete.
“I think it’s unusual for the Commonwealth to arrest someone without waiting for an autopsy,” she said.
Thompson, who has consistently maintained her client’s innocence, said Brady is terrified and devastated by the charges against her.
“She’s in jail for something she didn’t do,” Thompson said.
At the hearing, she sought to have Brady’s bail reduced, but Sragow said she needed to make her case to the original judge or appeal the bail ruling to a higher court. After the hearing, Thompson said she would consider her options.
Specialists say autopsies involving violent head injuries can take weeks or even months, particularly when they involve young children. Even when the cause of death appears clear, medical examiners must conduct a wide range of forensic tests to rule out other possibilities, and sometimes call in outside specialists to review their findings.
The initial autopsy found that the child was a victim of abusive head trauma. A doctor at Children’s Hospital who is an expert on child abuse concluded there was “no other medical explanation” for her acute head injuries or death.
Tests also found several bone fractures between two weeks and two months old.
In the four-page motion, filed Friday in Cambridge District Court, prosecutors say the extensive injuries observed in the initial autopsy, including massive brain swelling and acute hemorrhaging, called for “further microscopic examination” of the child’s brain and eyes. It said the doctor in charge had been unable to complete the autopsy “despite best efforts.”
The motion stated that the child’s injuries were consistent with abusive head trauma and that Rehma would not have appeared normal after sustaining the injuries.
But Stephen Weymouth, a Boston defense lawyer, said the wait may suggest that “the medical evidence isn’t there” for homicide charges.
“I do think it’s unusual,” he said of the delay.
Weymouth said it was reasonable to seek lower bail, given the absence of a murder charge.
In a search of the family’s apartment, authorized by the girl’s parents, investigators found blood stains on a pillow and blanket and on discarded baby wipes. Part of the wall by a changing table had been broken off, damage that police were told was not there before.
Brady has no criminal convictions, but in 2007 was charged with attacking her female roommate during a quarrel. The case was dismissed. She has had two restraining orders taken out against her.
She had been a nanny since coming to America in 2002.
The child’s parents, Sameer Sabir and Nada Siddiqui, have not spoken publicly about their daughter’s death. In a statement released by prosecutors in January, they asked for privacy.
“Very few can fully understand the sorrow and pain that they are enduring, and we all need to allow them the appropriate time and support they require to cope with this tragedy,” the statement read.Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.