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Nanny accused in infant’s 2013 death released on bail

Aisling McCarthy was led into her bail hearing Tuesday at Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/Pool

WOBURN — Almost two-and-a-half years after her arrest, Aisling Brady McCarthy, the nanny accused of fatally assaulting a Cambridge 1-year-old in her care, was released on $15,000 bail Tuesday as the state medical examiner's office reviews the evidence in her death.

Superior Court Judge Maureen Hogan granted McCarthy's request for bail after receiving assurances from federal immigration officials that she would not be deported to her native Ireland before her trial. McCarthy, 36, had been living in the country illegally, and prosecutors argued that she posed a major flight risk if released.

Hogan also described the medical examiner's decision to revisit the case, which comes amid broader doubts about the science behind shaken-baby diagnoses, as a "rare and significant occurrence."


McCarthy was placed under home confinement with GPS monitoring. As Hogan read her decision, McCarthy quietly sobbed, and her relatives in the audience wiped away tears.

Outside the courtroom, McCarthy's lawyer, Melinda Thompson, said McCarthy's release was "absolutely fantastic," and that she was "completely relieved to be out of jail."

"The medical examiner's office is doing the right thing," she said of the review.

McCarthy is accused of killing Rehma Sabir in the child's Cambridge home while baby-sitting in January 2013. Authorities say the child was in McCarthy's sole care when she suffered massive brain injuries consistent with violent shaking, and that the injuries could not have been inflicted before that day.

But McCarthy's lawyers have maintained her innocence, citing medical opinions that Sabir sustained bone fractures and compression fractures to her spine several weeks before her death, when she was traveling with her family and not in McCarthy's care.

They have also questioned the medical examiner's determination that the child's death was a homicide, and last month submitted nine medical reports from a range of outside specialists challenging the ruling.


The review by the medical examiner's office is expected to take about a month, delaying the start of the trial until July.

The examiner is reconsidering the case less than a year after it changed its ruling in the death of a 6-month-old boy in Malden after receiving more information about the family's medical history. The office initially ruled that the infant died from shaking injuries to the head, but medical specialists found that the infant had died of natural causes.

Middlesex prosecutors, who had charged the boy's father with murder, dropped the charges in light of the new information.

In the McCarthy case, prosecutors said they remained committed to "trying the case on its facts."

"With all defendants charged with first-degree murder, there is a presumption that they be held without bail pending trial," said Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan. "While we argued for the defendant to continue to be held in custody, the court in its discretion, made a decision to admit the defendant to bail."

Arguing against McCarthy's release, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said she represented a "substantial risk of flight," and under federal immigration law could well be deported.

Fitzgerald acknowledged that US immigration officials had indicated they would not deport McCarthy if she was placed on GPS monitoring. But McCarthy, facing the possibility of a life sentence, might flee on her own, he said.

"She has absolutely no incentive to stay," he said.

Despite the medical examiner's review, Fitzgerald said the case against McCarthy had not changed. Prosecutors plan to bring 20 witnesses, including the doctors who treated the child at the hospital, who will testify that she was the victim of abusive head trauma.


"There is no other unifying explanation for the constellation of injuries," he said.

He said the specialists consulted by the defense often contradicted themselves and did not explain the full range of injuries.

"The state of the Commonwealth's evidence has not changed in the least," he said.

Fitzgerald criticized the defense for filing the reports shortly before the trial was set to begin, calling it a "deliberate, tactical decision."

Thompson, McCarthy's lawyer, called the claim "ludicrous," and said a prosecution specialist found that Sabir suffered bone fractures at a time when McCarthy was not caring for her. "That categorically excludes Ms. McCarthy" from causing those injuries, she said.

"She is absolutely not going anywhere," she said.

Peter Schworm can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @globepete.